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Latest ’slave law’ demo pulls 10,000; unions deliver ultimatum

An estimated 10,000 protestors attended the latest demonstration against the so-called "slave law" pertaining to overtime rules in Budapest on Saturday, where László Kordás, head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MASZSZ), called for protests and blockades across the country on January 19 should the government fail to meet the unionsʼ demands. 

Protesters marching along Andrássy út on Saturday afternoon (photo BBJ)

The latest in a month-long series of protests against the controversial "slave law" took place on Saturday, January 5. According to online news portal merce.hu, the turnout reached approximately 10,000 people, despite the cold, with demonstrators marching from Hősök tere (Heroesʼ Square) along Andrássy út, to the Parliament building at Kossuth tér.

The demonstration was attended by several trade unions, as well as all major opposition parties. After the crowd arrived at the stage erected in front of the Parliament building, several trade union representatives made speeches denouncing the governmentʼs policies. Kordás reiterated a four-point list of union demands - pertaining to the "slave law," as well as minimum wages and other labor-related issues - and announced nationwide demonstrations by trade unions on January 19, declaring: "let the country come to a halt in all counties and all larger cities."

Towards the end of the event, representatives of the opposition parties DK, Jobbik, LMP, Momentum, the Liberals, Socialists (MSzP), and Párbeszéd, as well as parliamentary independents, each made short speeches, emphasizing the importance of working together in order to stop the overtime law.

MSzP President Bertalan Tóth went as far as calling for joint lists of opposition candidates at EU and municipal elections this year, arguing that opposition and government candidates should be matched "one against one."

According to online news site index.hu, Csaba Molnár, an MEP for DK, stressed that those present were protesting not only against the new overtime rules, but against the entire regime, and would not give up until they have succeeded in toppling it.

"The rebels are not bound by the illiberal constitution, but want a real change of system," he declared.

LMP MP Antal Csárdi called for a meeting of representatives of all unions and opposition parties for Wednesday, January 9, in order to coordinate their position regarding comprehensive amendments to the labor law.

On Sunday, Máté Kocsis, head of the governing Fideszʼs parliamentary group, claimed that there were organizations at the protests who were on the financing list of George Soros, the Hungarian-born financier and philanthropist who has been the principal target of government propaganda in recent years.

"The protests were attended by those parties that support immigration and George Soros, so it is clear that George Soros deployed his people in Hungary," Kocsis said in a broadcast of government-controlled Kossuth Rádió.