(Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of Hungarian teachers joined a widening strike action across the nation’s school system following a government decision to fire more educators for protesting low pay.
Almost 700 teachers from 71 schools walked off the job on Friday, forcing several institutions to suspend classes, according to the Teacher for Teachers Facebook page, which compiles the information.
Thousands of students joined in solidarity, many of them placing black tape over their mouths. They decried what they called a hardline response by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government to silence teachers who earn among the lowest wages in the European Union.
Read More: Budapest Protest Swells to 80,000 to Support Hungary’s Teachers
Orban has become isolated in the EU for his power consolidation over more than a decade of uninterrupted rule, which has seen him extend his sway over the media, the courts, the economy and education system.
The European Commission this week recommended the suspension of more than $13 billion of Hungary’s funding on concerns over its adherence to the rule of law.
The current protests are expanding from an initial demand to boost wages to the right to strike. They also shine a light on the political transformation of Orban, who in the late 1980s was one of the post-communist leaders fighting for democratic freedoms in the waning days of Soviet-dominated rule.
The latest crackdown involved eight teachers fired earlier this week for striking during school hours, which Orban’s government has made illegal.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the school system, said in a statement on Wednesday that its decision was “unshakable.”
The move re-ignited protests that peaked on Oct. 23, when an estimated 80,000 people took to the streets in one of the largest protests since Orban’s return to power in 2010.
Teachers and students are planning to take to the streets on Saturday evening in Budapest.
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