The global struggle of autoworkers


Strikes by Hungarian Audi workers, Mexican auto parts workers

The global struggle of autoworkers

28 January 2019

Over the last several days, tens of thousands of workers in the global auto industry have been engaged in a wave of powerful strikes against low-wages and sweatshop conditions.

Last Thursday, an estimated 13,000 autoworkers launched a one-week strike at a German-owned Audi assembly and engine plant in the Hungarian city of Győr. Workers at the plant produce 100,000 sedans, luxury sports cars and sports utility vehicles each year, along with gasoline, diesel and electric motors for Audi and other brands owned by the Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest automaker.

A Hungarian Audi worker earns around 1,000 euros (US $1,140) per month, about a third of his German counter-part, although living costs are comparable with Western Europe. The workers, who also earn considerably less than their Eastern European counterparts in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, are demanding an 18 percent wage increase and at least one full weekend off each month.

The strike coincides with a wave of mass protests against the passage of a hated overtime law by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Victor Orbán that allows companies to press employees to work the equivalent of six days a week on average. The measure, popularly dubbed as the “slave law,” is also known as “Lex Audi, Mercedes or BMW” because it was pushed by foreign automakers, the largest investors in Hungary.

The Hungarian strike follows walkouts by VW workers in Slovakia and Fiat Chrysler workers in Serbia in the summer of 2017 and by Ford workers in Craiova, Romania, just over a year ago. Czech workers at Skoda, VW Group’s highly profitable low-cost brand, are also preparing to strike next month…

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