(Bloomberg) -- Hungary’s labor unions took to the streets to protest against a ruling-party bill they’ve dubbed the “slave law” that aims to significantly boost the number of extra hours employers can demand of employees.
A few thousand protesters marched in Budapest against a proposal from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party to allow employers to demand as many as 400 extra hours of work annually from employees, up from 250 hours now. After the unions announced the nationwide protest, the government made some changes to the legislation without fully backing down.
While opposition parties had vowed to emulate the French “yellow vest” movement, the rally’s size underscored the weakness of opposition to Orban’s government. Even large-scale protests attended by many thousands have failed to achieve major policy change in Hungary in recent years. Fidesz holds a two-thirds parliamentary majority, facing a fragmented opposition that allows them to pass any law without outside support.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, during a visit to Germany last month, said German companies had long asked for changes to alleviate what they say is pressure on labor markets and a dearth of workers at the salaries they’re willing to pay. Hungary’s jobless rate was 3.7 percent from August to October, near a record low.
One of the bill’s authors, ruling party lawmaker Lajos Kosa, earlier denied there was a link between legislation and BMW AG’s planned 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) investment in Debrecen, the city he represents.
The new production facility follows major car-factor investments from Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand, France’s PSA Group and Suzuki Motor Corp.
“This legislation opens the way for the exploitation of workers in Hungary,” said Laszlo Kordas, president of the Hungarian Association of Labor Unions. “It’s tailor-made for carmakers.”
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