Translation of “Mediaworks violated the rights of its employees – the court’s decision has come into force” published by the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) on January 4th.
The second-level court has ruled that Mediaworks Zrt. closed the newspaper and suspended the employees without notifying the employees beforehand. The court also found that the employee council had operated lawfully at the company employing the Népszabadság workers.
The Népszabadság council president Anna Danó launched a procedure with our help against the employer, Mediaworks Zrt., for violating the law on employment. The law stipulates that in the case of actions on the part of the employer involving larger groups of employees it must inform them 15 days beforehand and ask the opinion of the employee council. However, this did not happen. It is known that on the morning of the ominous day the employees were not able to take up their work, or access their own email accounts, and in place of the newspaper’s online portal all that could be read was an announcement about the closure of the newspaper. Hours later they learned of the suspension of the newspaper’s publication and the end of the work from unsigned letters delivered by hand by a courier on motorcycle.
At the beginning of Novdmber, we publicized the fact that the first-level court had ruled in favor in Anna Danó’s petition and found that Mediaworks could not have decided on the closure of the newspaper without asking the opinion of the employee council.
In its written appeal, Mediaworks ousted the existence of the council and the legitimacy of its chairman. They argued that the circumstances did not make it possible to ask the council’s opinion. Furthermore, they disputed that the law required them to notify the Népszabadság employees beforehand. These arguments failed to convince the second-level court either, and the court ruled in favor of the Népszabadság employees.
“We are right but our newspaper no longer exists,” observed Anna Danó, chairman of the Népszabadság employee council. “The company was willing to undertake the unlawful winding up of Népszabadság.
“No legal procedure is available to us with which to oppose the reorganization of the media market which is institutionally winding up press freedom. The rights guaranteed by the labor law, however, enabled us to fight for the journalists’ rights. The publisher’s actions were unlawful according to the findings of the court, which found that Hungarian law did not permit the closure of a newspaper the way this happened.”