Protesting the "slave law" in Hungary: The erosion of illiberal hegemony?
Publisher: Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres
Date Written: 09/01/2019
Year Published: 2019
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX23252
Popular protests have arisen in Hungary to oppose exploitive changes to the labor code. The government opposition has supported the protests but this could result in weakening the protests' legitimacy as a movement.
In recent weeks, Hungary has again made international headlines. This time, it was a popular movement born out of resistance to the latest rewriting of the labor code - which the ruling Fidesz party had already modified in 2011 to the benefit of employers - that made the news. On 12 December, amid chaotic scenes in the National Assembly (where opposition MPs sought to obstruct the voting procedure), Fidesz passed a law that raises the maximum amount of overtime employees can work from 250 to 400 hours a year, and gives employers the freedom to delay payment for overtime work by up to three years. A similar amendment had already been proposed last year but was quickly withdrawn after the government realized the unpopular measure could dent Fideszs popularity in the run-up to this springs parliamentary election. Off-the-cuff comments made by Fidesz representatives have revealed that the law was reintroduced to satisfy German carmakers who are facing an increasingly acute labor shortage in a low-wage economy that a sizeable segment of the labor force has left behind to take up better-paid work in Austria, Germany, and other Western European countries.