1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Fresh protests against Hungary's 'slave law'

January 5, 2019

Thousands have rallied in Budapest to demonstrate against controversial changes to the country's labor laws. Hungary's largest trade union has threatened to call a general strike on January 19.

Banner reading "There is dictatorship in Hungary" at a protest in Budapest against the country's new labor reforms
Image: picture-alliance

Some 10,000 people rallied outside the parliament building in Budapest on Saturday against labor reforms approved last month by the right-wing nationalist government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. 

Hungarians are angry about what they call the new "slave law" that allows employers to demand hundreds of hours of overtime a year and delay payment for up to three years.

The protesters chanted "We will not be slaves" and "Dirty Fidesz," referring to Orban's party, as they marched in near-freezing temperatures past the parliament building on the banks of the Danube.

Orban and Fidesz have been able to hang on to a two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament by taking control of the media and making changes to the country's election system.  

 Read more: Hungarians protest draconian 'slave law' as Orban cracks down on dissent 

General strike threat

The government has argued that the law helps businesses suffering from labor shortages and benefits workers who want the extra pay.

But the country's largest union says increasing wages for standard working hours and a more flexible retirement system would bring more benefits to workers.

Hungarian Trade Union Federation President Laszlo Kordas said on Saturday that he will present its demands to Prime Minister Viktor Orban. If the government refuses to negotiate, they will call a general strike on January 19.

Soros blamed

Government spokesman Istvan Hollik repeated the government's claim that Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros is funding protests against the labor law. The Hungarian regime often accuses Soros of devious anti-government plots.

Protesters also brought up other grievances with Orban's government, such as concerns about threats to the rule of law, the curtailment of academic and press freedom, and political corruption.

Read more: Thousands of Hungarians march in Budapest in support of press freedom 

kw/amp (AP, dpa)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.