tuesday, 18 december of 2018

Law

Hungary Parliament relaxes labor code in favor of employers

The Hungarian government passed a suite of amendments to the nation’s labor laws that will significantly benefit employers on Wednesday despite vocal protests on the Parliament floor.

The new laws increase the number of overtime hours that employers can require employees to work per year from the code’s previously allowed 250 hours to 400 hours. The length of time that employers have to pay workers for overtime was also extended from one to three years and employers can offer payment in the form of salary or vacation.

Another controversial aspect of the new laws is the possibility they create for direct arrangements between employers and individual workers, undermining the role of unions and collective bargaining in the employment process.

MPs from Orbán’s Fidesz’ leading party proposed the amendments to Hungarian labor law at the end of November with the aim of addressing the issues of labor shortage, attracting investors, and improving economic growth.

Opposition MPs disrupted the Parliament’s plenary sessions on Monday with shouts and whistles when their attempt at filibuster failed. Protests continued during voting today, but the measure passed with 130 votes in favor, 52 against and one abstention. The amendments have also caused discontent among many citizens and trade unions, which have organized protests of the “slave law” during the upcoming weekend.

Socialist leader Bertalan Tóth called Wednesday’s session “scandalous and illegitimate,” claiming that the MPs could vote without their IDs, which he emphasized was “against all rules.”

PROTEST

Protesters in Budapest on Sunday threw smoke grenades at police, who responded with tear gas, as thousands of people rallied against a new “slave law” passed by the government of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

More than 15,000 people, according to local press reports, joined the demonstration — the first rally since Orban returned to power in 2010 to bring together all opposition parties, from greens to the far right, under the same banner.

The protest was called by unions and opposition parties outraged at reforms that hike the annual overtime hours that employers can demand from 250 to 400 hours and allows payment to be delayed by up to three years.

The government says the changes are needed by employers short of manpower and will benefit those wanting to work extra hours.

Sunday’s protest ended up at Parliament Square, where protesters chanting “Orban get lost!” have been gathering since the law was adopted last Wednesday.

Protesters, led by two opposition lawmakers, later marched to Hungary’s public television headquarters to read a petition but were refused access.

Protesters then hurled missiles and smoke grenades, prompting police to respond with tear gas, as they have done in previous days.

They don’t negotiate with anyone. They just do whatever they want. They steal everything. It’s intolerable. It cannot go on,” said one protester, Zoli, a transport worker.

Protests in the past week have been the most violent in Hungary for over a decade, with dozens arrested and at least 14 police injured.

Other reforms passed by parliament, which is dominated by Orban’s ruling party, include a bill paving the way for new “administrative courts” to oversee public administration cases.

Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi, a close Orban ally, will oversee the courts, leading some to warn the prime minister could have near-total political influence over the judicial system.

Anger over the legislation has prompted opposition parties across the spectrum, who accuse Orban and his ruling Fidesz party of steering Hungary toward authoritarianism, to join forces.

Pro-government public and commercial media have portrayed the protesters as anarchists and “mercenaries of George Soros.”

Soros , a Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire, has long been accused by Orban of plotting to destabilize Hungary.

(Published by Jurist, December 12, 2018)

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