History of our trade union
VASAS, Hungarian Metalworkers’ Federation
PROTECTING WORKERS’ INTERESTS THROUGHOUT STORMS OF HISTORY
The symbol of VASAS carries two dates as historic reminders:
was the year when the Budapest Association of Iron and Ore Workers was established - which was the first Hungarian trade union.
was when the united Central Federation of Hungarian Iron and Metal Workers was established by its founder and first president, Károly Teszársz, and it started to operate nation-wide.
By the summer of 1905, a total of 25.000 metalworkers in Budapest had held a five-week long strike. As the result of a large-scale demonstration in 1908, the Minister of Internal Affairs suspended the operation of the Federation, but the solidarity and grit of the workers prevented the dissolution of the organisation. That was the time when the famous slogan was born:
“Ironworker, hit back!”
From the days of Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867 up to the current day, the Metalworkers’ federation had to face a lot of struggle and countless regime changes. Many metalworkers sacrificed their lives in these struggles. Their names have been written in marble for the posterity at the entrance of VASAS’ headquarters.
These conceptions have formulated the basic values of our trade union, which we need today as well as we needed them in our past.
NEW TIMES, SAME CHALLENGES
VASAS also formed and was affected by the rapid changes which in Hungary have become commonly known as “regime changes”.
In the second half of the 1980s, the metalworkers already launched a process which had changed its functions and updated the organisation and the principles of operation.
In December 1989, on the threshold of the new decade, VASAS’ 30th Congress adopted the new Statutes, new Organisational and Operational Rules and, after having held elections among office-bearers, the process was crowned by the elections of the top leadership of the Federation.
Two characteristic quotes from the Statutes:
“VASAS is a federation that has been established on the basis of the voluntary association of union organisations of workers in foundries, in machinery, in informatics and electronics industries, in all areas and professions and trades. The Federation is an autonomous legal entity. Its basic role and obligation are to represent and to protect the comprehensive socio-economic, welfare and cultural interests of the membership rallied within the Federation and to do it on the basis of equal social chances.”
“The demands and views of the membership are determining factors in the activities of the Union. The autonomy of the affiliates is guaranteed via the common principles of the federation, which means that there is no interference in the activities, in the affairs or in the decisions of the affiliates.”
VASAS is a founding member of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ), which – and its predecessor organisation – has been representing the overwhelming majority of organised Hungarian workers since March 1990. After many decades of forced absence, in 1991 VASAS joined to the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) and to the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), which organisations now known as industriAll Europe Trade Union and industriAll Global Union.