Protests Continue in Hungary Against Labor Reform

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Thousands of Hungarians took to the streets for the fourth time in recent days to reject what they call the “slavery law,” a new labor law put forth by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to guarantee cheap labor for the German automobile companies.

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Last week, thousands of Hungarians attended to the fourth demonstration against the labor reform approved last week and against the unpopular policies of the far-right Orbán.

Unions and opposition parties mobilized about 10,000 people under the slogan “Merry Christmas, Mr. Prime Minister,” alluding to Orbán’s response during a parliamentary discussion, where he was questioned by the opposition regarding his government policies, to which he simply answered “Happy Holidays.”

These protests were sparked by the labor reform, nicknamed by Hungarians as the “slavery law,” which increases from 250 to 400 the maximum number of working hours allowed per year, for which certain workers could be forced by their bosses to work six days a week.

This scandalous law allows bosses to add these extra hours up to 36 months after being done. Orbán, a xenophobic and anti-immigrant nationalist, did not hesitate in taking the plea of German automobile companies to the Hungarian parliament, which was denounced by both Hungarian and German trade unions. According to them, Volkswagen and BMW demanded that the Hungarian government guarantee cheap labor and increased working hours.

“We will not be slaves,” “Orbán out,” “Merry Christmas with no Orbán” and “We are sick of it” were some of the slogans chanted by protesters as they crossed the center of Budapest. The demonstration marched through the city center from the Plaza of Heroes to Alkotmány (Constitution) St. near the National Assembly, where the protest ended with party and union leaders speaking to the crowd.

The three previous demonstrations concluded in front of the parliament building, where police tear-gassed and arrested 57 people in three days. This time, however, there were demonstrations not only in Budapest but also in the six largest cities of the country: Szeged, Békéscsaba, Debrecen, Miskolc, Veszprém and Györ, as well as in London and Copenhagen.

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