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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.

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The State of Trade Unionism in Hungary 395

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LÁSZLÓ NEUMANN The State of Trade Unionism in Hungary 1. Introduction Prior to World War II Hungarian craft unions had about 100,000 members. Large scale industrialisation and an enormous expansion of the working class took place from the 1950s onward. Following the communist takeover (1948) unions were reorganised into 19 industrial branch union federations overseen by a monolithic confederation, the National Council of Trade Unions (Szakszervezetek Országos Tanácsa, SZOT). Due to a burgeoning industrial workforce and to virtually compulsory membership, official trade unions claimed almost 4.4 million members in the mid-1980s, representing about 96 per cent of all wage earners. Following 1988, during the transition from state socialism to multi-party democracy and a free market economy, the trade union movement also underwent a process of democratisation and reorganisation, involving a major crisis from which it has yet to recover. 2. The Historical Origins of Trade Union Confederations Hungary's first free union movement was created by academic researchers and professionals in 1988, on the eve of the democratic transition. The new union confederation, the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions (LIGA), along with the newly established opposition parties, took part in the political negotiations that led in 1990 to the first free general elections. When Hungary restored László Neumann 396 parliamentary democracy, LIGA lost its principal function and much of its momentum. Although several new grassroots unions conducted successful organising efforts, overall membership did not grow after 1991. Local grievances fuelled the spontaneous emergence of Wor-...

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