Hungary rail strike nears record length

Nando Media, 7 February 2000, 10:18 a.m. EST

BUDAPEST, Hungary—Hungary's rail strike reached its seventh day Monday, nearing record length with no agreement in sight.

Sandor Boelcshazy, spokesman for Hungarian State Railways, said the longest rail strike in Hungary, back in 1904, lasted seven days.

Partial services are being maintained, but international trains and intercity express trains have been halted.

The management of State Railways has calculated that each hour of the strike is costing the railway $16,000, jeopardizing the pay hikes the union is demanding.

The three striking unions, representing 56,000 workers, are demanding a 10.78 percent increase, but management is offering 8.5 percent. Janos Borsik, a union official, said a new collective agreement to replace one expired at the end of last year is even more important than wage demands.

State Railways plans to restructure the entire operation, which the government says now costs it $400 million a year in subsidies. This will mean closing unprofitable routes and cutting staff, which the unions oppose.