January 24, 2017 / 8:08 AM / 3 years ago

Workers at Audi's Hungarian arm set up strike committee

A worker stands next to a car on the assembly line as serial production of the new Audi TT roadster starts at the Audi plant in Gyor, west of Budapest November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Workers at the Hungarian arm of German carmaker Audi have set up a strike committee to push for higher salaries, the AHFSZ union said, the latest sign of how labour shortages in the country are driving up wage expectations.

The production and export of cars by foreign automakers is a key driver of economic growth in Hungary, where wages for skilled workers are well below Western European levels.

The car sector accounts for more than a quarter of total industrial output in the eastern European Union member.

The AHFSZ union said in a statement published late on Monday that the most recent management offer was “unacceptable” as it proposed to hike wages gradually, while a previously flagged bonus programme was scrapped.

The strike committee aims to continue talks with Audi management, the statement said.

A press official for Audi could not comment immediately.

The action by Audi workers follows a December agreement with unions at rival carmaker Daimler’s Hungarian factory that will see base salaries increase by 10 percent in each of the next two years.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces an election in early 2018, has agreed with employers that the minimum wage will increase by 15 percent this year and another 8 percent in 2018, while the payroll tax will also be lowered.

Gross wages in Hungary rose by 6.2 percent year-on-year in the January-November period. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest in at least a decade, in September-November from 4.7 percent in August-October.

Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Mark Potter

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