Published: Tue, December 18, 2018
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Thousands protest 'slave law' in Budapest

Thousands protest 'slave law' in Budapest

They had been hoping to read a declaration on air but were not permitted to do so.

As part of the reform, which critics have dubbed "the slave law", employers would be allowed to delay payment for overtime worked for up to three years.

They said that as MPs they had a right to be on the premises of a public establishment and to airtime on the public broadcaster.

Hungary's opposition parties have vowed to emulate the French Yellow Vest movement - which managed to win concessions on pensions, taxes and the minimum wage after a month of protests - but it's far from certain that the same will work on Orban.

Thousands braved subzero temperatures to go to the parliament in Budapest on Sunday, where speakers condemned the new law while the angry crowd chanted slogans such as "We've had enough".

Local media report the rally was joined by more than 15,000 people including trade unions, the first rally since the right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban returned to power in 2010.

Orban's lawmakers have a two-thirds majority in parliament, allowing them to pass any law without opposition support.

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During four days of protests that began Wednesday night, the demonstrations have evolved to encompass complaints about other policies of Orban's government, including legislation passed Wednesday that establishes a separate court for administrative matters.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban says the labour reform will benefit workers as well as companies who need to fill a labour shortage.

The justice minister Laszlo Trocsanyi, a close Orban ally, would oversee the courts.

Police used tear gas on protesters earlier in the week, but Sunday's demonstrations were peaceful until some tussles broke out at the TV headquarters in the evening. Hadhazy was eventually physically thrown out of the channel's premises, the Budapest Business Journal reported.

Referring to Orban's ruling party, protesters shouted "Dirty Fidesz" and held up banners saying that Hungarian public TV had become a government mouthpiece.

NPR reported that state-run "media loyal to the government have largely ignored the protests", while the ruling Fidesz party accused Hungarian-born USA billionaire George Soros of stirring up the demonstrations led by "criminals".

Earlier this year, the European Parliament punished Hungary by triggering Article 7, the EU disciplinary process against a member state, about cracking down on democratic institutions.

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