Nationwide protests against reformed labor-law staged in Hungary

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BUDAPEST, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Demonstrations against the reformed labor-law, dubbed "slave-law", took place nationwide in Hungary on Saturday, drawing thousands of people.

Organized mainly by trade unions and opposition parties, road blocks and demonstrations have been held in all of the departments of Hungary including the capital.

The wave of protests was sparked by the adoption of the amended labor law on Dec. 12, 2018, which increases the amount of overtime that employers can demand from 250 to 400 hours per year and allows payment to be delayed by up to three years.

According to the government, the reform of the law was necessary to handle Hungary's labor shortage and would allow those who want to work more hours to earn more.

But the demands of the opposition have grown beyond the opposition to the amended labor law. It also demanded the withdrawal of another recent reform that could threaten the independence of judges and asked for independence of the public media, which the opposition accuses of being under total control of the government.

The protests have succeeded in uniting all colors of the weak and divided opposition, with unions also sharing their influence and stepping up behind the protests and threatening to organize a general strike in mid-March unless their demands are met.

Demonstrators in the capital gathered under the Buda Castle before a giant screen, where they could follow the protests and road blocks underway in some 20 towns outside of the capital.

Just like the opposition parties, the trade unions are also weak and fractious. But 15 of the most important ones have set up a National Strike Preparation Committee.

Besides the annulment of the labor law's modifications, they also want new regulations on the strikes and real dialogue between patrons, government and employees. They also demand higher salaries and more substantial fringe benefits, as well as more flexible retirement schemes.

So far, the government has not taken any concession step, estimating that the protests did not attract the real mass of the demonstrators.

"The labor law serves the interests of the workers, I respect the trade unions, but they are not right in this case," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban repeated many times after the adoption of the law.

The series of demonstrations have also been welcomed by the guild of Hungarian writers, and co-organized by political parties that have not made it to the Parliament but present and active in Hungary's political life, such as Momentum or The Double Tailed Dog Party (MKKP). Enditem

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