Trade unions members and members of opposition parties marched through the capital to vent their fury over the law which would allow employers to demand as many as 400 hours of overtime from employees every year. In the biggest street protest in Hungary in more than year, activists waved banners which read “we protest against the slave law” and “force your mother to do overtime”. Laszlo Kordas, head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, told several thousand protesters that Hungarians were working “at Europe’s lowest wages”.
Police blocked off the main square outside Parliament, where the protest was headed originally, forcing the march to loop around the central Budapest area and fill Constitution Road, the main street leading up to Parliament.
Hungary’s prime minister Mr Orban was forced to backtrack from party’s original plans for the new law after opposition parties warned they would stage a national protect.
Under current rules, bosses can demand employees to do up to 250 hours of extra work annually.
Mr Orban’s Fidesz party had initially attempted to simply raise this to 400 to compensate for a growing labour shortage in Hungary.
But the government made a small concession and will now require employers to seek the permission of workers for an additional 150 hours.
The new rules could potentially add two extra hours to an average work day, or the equivalent of an extra workday per week, which opponents say will increase the profits of companies at the expense of workers.
Mr Organ’s party insists employees will be paid for any overtime.
Zoltan Laszlo, vice chairman of the Vasas ironworkers union, told Reuters: “We are all really upset about the way things are going in this country.
“This government just makes laws with scant consultation of those affected.
“Our health status is already abysmal. People who make these kinds of laws work against society.
“We’ll show them that we can take our fate into our own hands. We are willing to turn a lot harsher.”
Hungarian lawmakers are expected to vote on the revised law on Wednesday.
Fidesz holds a two-thirds majority in parliament, which allows it to pass any law without support from opposition groups.