A wave of protests has been triggered by an amendment to Hungarian labor law, now known to the public as the "slave law," which was passed in parliament last week. The law increases the possible number of overtime hours per year per employee from 250 to 400. At the same time, employers can now take three years instead of one year to pay overtime. The amendment was passed over massive protests by trade unions, the opposition and civil organizations.
The right to strike has been severely restricted and companies pay lower taxes in Hungary than anywhere else in the EU. Hungarian trade unions are now weak and politically fragmented. But now, a part of the Hungarian public is directing all of their anger toward the "slave law." The amendment is putting major social problems — which Orban's system has created in the first place — on the shoulders on employees and doing so in a brazen way that many consider humiliating. Over the past eight years, some 600,000 mostly well-educated citizens have migrated from Hungary because of the oppressive political climate, the poor organization and underfunding of some parts of the education and health care systems, and the high dependence of private companies on government support. Now the government apparently wants to combat the massive labor shortage simply by increasing overtime.
The Orban government responded in its own usual way: It claimed the protests were initiated by billionaire George Soros and the forces behind him, as well as by people who want to flood Hungary with migrants.