Hungarians continue protest over ‘slave law’

Opposition parties and civil society groups are challenging the government’s recent labour law.

Thousands of Hungarians went to the streets on Saturday to protest against a controversial labour law, dubbed “slave law”, which increases the amount of overtime that employers can request from 250 to 400 hours.

Opposition parties and civil society groups are challenging the law: “I don’t want to live in a country where people are at the mercy of their employer and where wages fail to provide a livelihood,” said Nikoletta Kiss of the Alliance of Hungarian Trade Union.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the law is a solution to the country’s labour shortage and serves the interest of workers, who will have the legal possibility to work overtime.

Marching through central Budapest behind the banner saying “We have had enough”, protesters waved Hungary’s national tricolour and the European Union flag on their way to the main gathering point of the protest at the foot of the medieval Buda Castle.

It has been more than a month now since opposition protest marked the start of a new political awakening for those who oppose Viktor Orban and his government.

Criticism towards the government’s policies goes beyond the labour reform. Next to trade unions, parties from both left and right, members of the civil society and students are protesting against the government control of the media, of the judiciary and of universities.

“We are just pushing this wave of opposition that has started,” said Zainab Shumail from Free University movement. “We are chanting for a free university, free academia and freedom for workers as well” she added.

Protesters on Saturday tried a new tactic and closed a key bridge in the capital.

According to a survey by pollster Zavecz Research, support for the right-wing Fidesz party, dropped by three points to 32 percent of voters in January, still, Orban’s ruling party remains ahead.