Car industry behind Hungary’s ‘slave law’

In the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism, thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets in Hungary to oppose Prime Minister Viktor Orban''s controversial "slave law." The square outside the parliament building in Budapest was massively occupied Dec. 12 as the law was approved. It was subsequently signed by President Janos Ader. Orban said the law scraps "silly rules," and will help those who want to earn more by working more. He dismissed the opposition to the law as "hysterical shouting" by people "whose lies have no limits." In fact, the law will allow employers to demand workers put in up to 400 extra hours per year of overtime, compared with the current limit of 250. Meanwhile, payment for this overtime may be delayed by up to three years. Local media in Hungary report that Orban pushed through the law in a bid to lure German auto-maker BMW to invest a billion euros in a new plant in Debrecen, Hungary's second city, situated in the poorest region of the country, the northeast. The move is portrayed as intended to undercut labor costs in Slovakia, where BMW was initially considering investment.

Trade unions are opposing the reform and have threatened to organise a general strike. The leader of the left-opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) Bertalan Toth has also called for the protests to continue. Amid the growing militancy there is also a satirical aspect, as the spoof Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) called a mock rally as a cynical show of workers' "gratitude" to Orban. The measure has also sparked a municipal revolt, with local councils in the city of Szeged and the northern town of Salgotarjan passing resolutions vowing not to implement the new law. (EuroNews, BBC News, France24KaosEnLaRed)

Photo: KaosEnLaRed