Orban’s ‘slave law’ unites opposition 

Orban’s ‘slave law’ unites opposition 

Hungary’s “slave law”, which could oblige staff to work up to 400 hours of annual overtime and wait up to three years for payment, continues to invigorate protesters. 

Thousands have marched through Budapest to demand the abolition of the law and for independent courts and a free media. They also want Hungary to join the EU prosecutor’s office to allow external investigation of state corruption.

Populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban (pictured) has been confronted by an unusually persistent wave of street protests after pushing through the bill this month. 

Orban has faced many protests since taking power in 2010, but those currently opposing him now include Jobbik party nationalists, Socialists, Greens, centrists such as Momentum, liberal organisations, students and trade unions.

About 5,000 demonstrators surrounded the Budapest parliament again on Friday after President Janos Ader signed the bill into law. 

Orban said the protesters were guilty of “hysterical shouting”. 

Since re-entering office in 2010, Orban has limited judicial independence, restricted media freedom and plurality, and helped build a circle of wealthy oligarchs.

The amendments to the labour code raise the annual cap on overtime to 400 hours from 250 hours, and gives firms three years, instead of the previous 12 months, to pay wages.

In some cases, employers will be allowed to pay a regular hourly rate, instead of overtime, according to some observers.

Orban’s Fidesz party said: “Those who want to work more to work more and those who want to earn more to earn more.”

Protesters have braved the winter cold to oppose the measures. 

“When the ‘slave law’ was passed, opposition parties did what they hadn’t done before. They finally worked together and really made their voice heard,” Anna Donath, 31, said at Momentum’s Budapest headquarters.

“For me, the government’s court reforms might be more dangerous because now it’s impossible to say there is rule of law in Hungary. But it’s a more complicated issue. The ‘slave law’ is simple to understand and affects everyone.

“We have all agreed in early January to make a huge protest across Hungary, to show that this is not a ‘Budapest-only’ issue,” said Donath.

“The unions can really help by combining it with strikes, and with road blockades as well we can kill the life in Hungary, at least for one day. That will send a sign, and it has never happened [under Orban].” 



Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban. Picture credit: PXHere 

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