Trade unions ramp up opposition to Hungary’s ‘slave law’
Brussels, 19 December 2018 (ITUC OnLine): Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in opposition to a new law that imposes drastic measures on working people in Hungary. The contentious law increases the limit on overtime to 400 hours a year and breaches the European Union Working Time Directive.
“Hungarians are outraged and they are right. The ‘slave law’ shows the government’s disregard for working people. It gives free reign to employers and allows for unchecked overtime that is blatantly abusive. It effectively puts an end to the five-day working week that trade unions fought so hard to establish. Trade unions will not sit by and watch hard-won advances be dismantled” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC.
In a video message, Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, challenged the argument by proponents of the law that it increases competitiveness. He explained that the solution to ending the cycle of emigration, that has seen hundreds of thousands of Hungarians leave the country over the past eight years, lies in improving working conditions. “Hungary has become a cheap labour country, with very poor salaries and with very poor working conditions. This is the reason why foreign investors and Hungarian companies alike cannot find qualified workers” explained Visentini.
The controversial law was passed amid chaotic scenes inside the national parliament, at the state television headquarters and on the streets of Budapest. “It is clear that this law does not have the popular backing it needs. It goes against both the ILO Decent Work Agenda and the European Pillar of Social Rights. There remains a window of opportunity for President János Áder to do the right thing and refuse to sign the ‘slave law’” concluded Burrow.
The ITUC has issued solidarity letters in support of trade unions in Hungary and ITUC affiliates adopted an Urgency Resolution on the labour law reforms in Hungary at its 4th World Congress. They are available from the following link:
Sign the petition to demand the withdrawal of the law: