Hungary ‘slave labour’ law sparks protest on parliament steps

Protests have broken out in Hungary after the country’s parliament passed new labour laws, which have been labelled “slave labour” by opponents.

New rules mean companies can demand up to 400 hours of overtime a year and delay payment for it for three years.

Police used tear gas against crowds on the steps of the parliament building on Wednesday night as crowds gathered.

Opposition politicians had created chaos inside, blocking stairways and blowing whistles to disrupt the votes.

They were also angry over a second vote to create a new system of administrative courts controlled by the minister of justice, which critics fear will not be independent.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s overwhelming majority in parliament pushed the change through.

Hundreds of protesters – one estimate suggested up to 2,000 – gathered outside the building late on Wednesday to protest against the “slave labour” amendment, while hundreds of police protected the entrance.

A small group of protesters set fire to some street furniture and refuse
It followed a weekend protest over the proposed change, where crowds gathered calling for higher minimum wages, rather than an increase in overtime.

In Hungary, the law previously allowed for companies to demand a maximum of 250 hours of overtime in a given year.

But for someone who works eight-hour days, the new amount of 400 hours is the equivalent of an hour of extra labour every day, an extra day’s work every week, or 50 extra days each year.

 

The judicial reform is also seen as controversial by many of the prime minister’s opponents.

The European Parliament took the unprecedented step of voting to pursue disciplinary action against Hungary, citing – among other things – concerns over pressure being placed on the courts, widespread corruption and the independence of the electoral system.

Taken from BBC News 13 December 2018