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Unions state demands as strike looms; major protests ahead

Trade unions participating in the current Strike Preparation Committee have stated four key demands, including the revocation of the so-called "slave law" pertaining to overtime. They promise to go ahead with a general strike unless the government accepts the demands before Saturdayʼs major opposition protest in Budapest, according to multiple reports.

The main demands were summarized in four points by the participating unions, with the first demand being the implementation of changes to the labor code to better serve the interests of workers, alongside the revocation of the controversial "slave law," according to a report by daily Népszava.

The second demand includes a double-digit raise in minimum wages (the government announced at the New Year it had agreed on 8% minimum wage hikes), the restoration of the cafeteria system benefiting employees, and reorganizing wages in the public sector.

The third demand states that unions want fair regulations regarding strike rights, as well as dialogue and prior consultation before the government modifies legislation affecting workers.

Lastly, unions demand a more flexible retirement system, the return of a modernized early retirement scheme, and respectable support provided to differently-abled workers.

Earlier Thursday, the governing Fidesz boycotted a special session of Parliament initiated by the opposition, citing events such as the chaotic scenes in Parliament during the vote on the "slave law" and incidents at the MTVA headquarters before Christmas, according to online news portal index.hu.

According to the report, the first pre-agenda remarks were delivered by Jobbik MP Péter Jakab, who blasted the absence of Fidesz representatives, saying: "Where did [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán disappear to? They are absent for five million [forints] a month. The Fidesz slave-owners are working the people to death, but not themselves."

Orbán is currently visiting Brazil, where he attended the inauguration of new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, with whom he reportedly had a one-on-one meeting, according to official government website kormany.hu and state news agency MTI.

Oath of resistance

After the session was concluded due to the lack of representatives to reach a quorum for valid voting, leaders and members of the opposition parties left the building and assembled before the media on the steps outside Parliament. Index.hu noted that a press conference could not be convened inside the building as parliamentary Speaker László Kövér (Fidesz) had refused to allow MPs to invite guests into the building on day passes.

Members of Jobbik, the Socialists (MSZP), DK, Párbeszéd, LMP and the non-parliamentary Momentum together declared an oath to be "faithful to the goals of resistance and the five-point demands of the Hungarian people," according to index.hu.

The opposition demands include the immediate repeal of the "slave law"; fewer overtime hours for police; independent courts; a call for Hungary to join the European Public Prosecutorʼs Office; and independence of the public media.

Momentum President András Fekete-Győr credited the collective "teamwork" of the opposition parties, civil organizations, unions and his own non-parliamentary movement for the wave of protests of recent weeks.

MSZP President Bertalan Tóth called on people to participate in the demonstration which will take place this Saturday at Heroesʼ Square. According to the eventʼs Facebook page, the protest is supported by all major opposition parties and a number of trade unions and other organizations. It is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.