A seven-day strike by thousands of autoworkers in Hungary, members of the Audi Hungaria Independent Trade Union, ended Jan. 30 with the unionists winning an 18 percent monthly wage raise and other benefits. That means at least $273 more a month.
The strike had stopped production at Audi’s engine plant in the city of Gyor. The plant, which employs some 9,000 union members, is the largest producer of engines in Europe. The plant’s production makes up 9 percent of exports from Hungary.
Foreign-owned auto companies account for some 30 percent of industrial output in Hungary. For years these companies have profited off the country’s relatively skilled workers forced to take lower wages.
The walkout upended production throughout Audi’s European operations. Bosses at the plant in Ingolstadt, Germany, were forced to shut down for two days because of a shortage of engines.
In addition to the wage hike, the union said the agreement guarantees workers at least one weekend off each month, starting in May, and anniversary bonuses.
“The fact that [union members] were effective with their demands and got almost everything they wanted shows how vulnerable German auto companies are to their supply chains in central and eastern Europe,” Milan Nic, of the German Council for Foreign Relations, told the Financial Times.
Workers are winning higher pay across central Europe. Hungarian workers’ wages in industry and construction rose 9 percent in the third quarter of 2018 over the year before, and 7 percent in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The strike was part of workers’ response to anti-working-class measures adopted by the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in December, that give bosses the right to impose mandatory overtime of up to 400 hours a year, the equivalent of an extra eight hours a week.
The success of the autoworkers strike “may encourage similar action by workers in other sectors,” said the Times.