Hungary: Thousands protest against 'slave law' forcing overtime on employees

Author: Marc Santora & Benjamin Novak, New York Times, Published on: 7 January 2019

'Protesting 'Slave Law', Thousands Take to Streets in Hungary', 5 Jan 2019

Gyula Radics is not easily angered. [...] But after Mr. Orban pushed through legislation compelling employees to work hundreds of hours of overtime without full or immediate compensation, he had enough.

“Orban destroys lives and families,” Mr. Radics said as he prepared to march with thousands of protesters Saturday afternoon. [...]

The legislation, branded the “slave law” by an uncharacteristically united opposition, has spurred the most sustained protests since Mr. Orban entered office in 2010. [...]

Since 2010, Mr. Kordas [head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation] said, the Orban government has tried to appeal to foreign investors by intentionally keeping wages low and gutting health and safety oversight. [...]

The discontent comes as Hungary faces a labor problem. In order to sustain its economic growth, it needs workers. Labor shortages are being felt by both small and medium businesses, and by large industries like the German automakers that rely on Hungarian labor. [...]

Laszlo Reszegi, an Hungarian economist, said the main beneficiaries are companies that take advantage of low labor costs, use unskilled workers and have big seasonal production fluctuations.

But few business leaders will voice support for the measure, he said. “You won’t find any business owners who would admit to liking this law,” he said. “It’s too sensitive.”

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