Changes in the role of the trade union in the Hungarian printing industry

Janos Aczel (President, Hungarian Graphical Workers' Union, Budapest, Hungary)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This paper sets out to describe the experiences of the Hungarian Trade Unions as they adapted to the political and economic changes of the post‐communist period. The paper lucidly explains how and why the trade union movement in Hungary made the transition from being a major player in every aspect of political, economic and social life in the old regime, to being a mere shadow of its former self in the early.


The author paints a vivid picture of “how” and “why” the trade unions were perceived in the “golden age of Socialism”. He then explains why dissatisfaction and disillusionment of the workers grew as living standards and real income declined and Western Capitalism became more attractive. After the initial aphorism following the overthrow of communism, the Author analyses why many Hungarian workers by the late 90s yearned for a return to the securities and paternalism of the Kádár era.


This Paper systematically traces the steps from Socialism to Capitalism in Hungary and the impact this had on organized labour. The author notes the paradox that at exactly the time that trade unions were rationalizing and merging into mega trade unions in the West, the newly freed trade union movement in Hungary and elsewhere in the CEE countries fragmentized and formed a multitude of small unions many of which would fold in months rather than years. The point is made that the transition to a neo‐liberal economic and political system led almost immediately in Hungary to falling standard of living and rising job insecurity.

Research limitations/implications

The account given in this paper of the changing nature of employee relations in Hungary spanning the communist and post‐communist periods provides researchers with a sound base to explore further the paradoxes to which the author has referred.


This paper provides a welcome, human account of what the changes and their consequences were for ordinary working people and their families and – most important – what they meant for organized labour in terms of its ability to enhance working peoples quality of life in Hungary.



Aczel, J. (2005), "Changes in the role of the trade union in the Hungarian printing industry", Employee Relations, Vol. 27 No. 6, pp. 566-580.

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