Opposition parties stage parliamentary walk-out and stand in solidarity with Suzuki workers

Hungary’s opposition parties presented a unified front Monday in walking out of a session of parliament to protest the widely panned overtime law, more colloquially known as the “slave law.” Rather than participating in the work of parliament, where the ruling Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority and where there is absolutely no chance for the opposition to effect change on any level, the parties gathered in front of the headquarters of Hungarian state propaganda, MTVA’s television and radio production studios, to demonstrate.

Hungarian parliament on Monday, 18 February, after the entire opposition walks out in protest.

The MPs will then travel to the northern Hungarian town of Esztergom later Monday in solidarity with the workers of the Suzuki auto manufacturing plant. The car manufacturer was among the first major companies in Hungary to take advantage of draconian overtime laws introduced by Fidesz. The change to the labour code allows employers to have their employees work 400 0vertime hours per year–increased from 250 hours prior to the amendment. Most egregiously, employer now have the right to delay payment of these overtime hours for up to three years.

Earlier this month forty-two Suzuki workers joined together to unionize. The leader of the proposed union, a Suzuki employee for over 14 years, was fired by the auto manufacturer moments before submitting the formal notice to the company announcing unionization. The dismissed assembly line worker and union organizer had no write-ups on file and no complaints over 14 years about his work, yet Suzuki cited unspecified “quality problems” for his sudden dismissal.

Everything we know about the manner in which Suzuki terminated a long-time employee for his role in unionization smacks of wrongful dismal, even by present-day Hungarian standards. Yet the employee in question and others who joined him and may face similar retribution can count on no protection from the Hungarian state. On Monday, Tímea Szabó of the left-centre Párbeszéd (Dialogue) party referred to 2019 as “the year of the slave.” Antal Csárdi of Lehet Más a Politika (Politics Can Be Different) added that workers cannot rely on the Hungarian government to protect their rights and this is why the opposition’s place is in Esztergom, at the Suzuki plant.

Independent MP Ákos Hadházy explained that the opposition would no longer tolerate its increasingly humiliating treatment in parliament at the hands of the ruling Fidesz party. Monday’s opposition walk-out is the clearest sign yet of more robust tactics from opposition parties. It is also an indication that the unity achieved last December within the ranks of an otherwise fractured opposition is still alive. The slave law may allow for the opposition to begin changing the narrative in Hungary. This is the sort of territory on which one can fight an election and of course there are two this year: the European Parliament in May and then local elections across all of Hungary in October.

12 Comments

  1. I pointed out to author the fact that Canada has no overtime limit, yet he continues to refer to Hungarian overtime limit of 400 hours as “draconian”, “slave law” and so on, and so on. Most people working in the oil patch in Alberta are working about 1,500 hours of overtime per year, and so are many people in many other industries in Canada, US and many other places. Try to go there and suggest limiting their overtime to 400 hours by law, and they would probably throw you into one of those nasty tailing ponds.

    As for the overtime pay delay, similarly, it is possible in Canada and elsewhere to bank hours. People do it all the time. I pointed out situations where one could actually benefit. It is especially the case for trades people, who at times may land contracts with intense work schedule, while at other times they may be facing slow periods, where hours may be well bellow desired full-time. Perhaps author should acquaint himself with real world, so he might get a real sense of Hungarian law when put into perspective and compared to reality of his own country.

    • Hungarian Free Press says:

      Joe, again you are spreading misinformation. Let’s look at Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, where I reside. The Ontario Employment Standards Act governs overtime related issues. Over-time pay, of one-and-a-half times an employee’s normal hourly rate is required by law for all hours in excess of 44 hours per week. All employees, including salaried workers, are entitled by law to overtime in Ontario. In some cases, employees may choose to bank overtime hours and then take paid time off, such as for extended holidays or staff leave, in lieu of pay. Unlike in Hungary under Orbán’s slave law, in no Canadian jurisdiction can an employer withhold paying out overtime hours for three years. Not only would this pose an employee rights issue, but it would adversely impact workers in terms of their tax obligations. Hours paid out in significant arrears in a single payroll period would result in an incorrectly high tax burden for that payroll period, requiring correction and a refund after filing taxes. In other words, the employee would have to wait up to a year for the correction and to get his/her money back. Imagine the impact if overtime is withheld for three years, as is now possible in Hungary. In most cases, where the employee does not agree to take paid leave in lieu of pay, overtime hours must be paid out in the regular cycle that said hours were worked.

      The Ontario Ministry of Labour sets a weekly limit for most sectors of 48 hours. An employee must agree in writing to working in excess of 48 hours per week and the employer must obtain approval for additional hours from the provincial Director of Employment Standards. The Ministry has this to say on the issue to employees who may be asked to work over-time hours and who may have agreed to this: “You cannot work more than the number of hours approved by the Director. This may be fewer than the number of hours you agreed to work.”

      More here: https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/pubs/hours/infosheet.php

      And here: https://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/es/tools/hours/daily_weekly_hours.php

      • “it would adversely impact workers in terms of their tax obligations.”

        Actually I banked hours in the past, precisely because I knew following year I will be working fewer hours, thus it helped bring down my taxes.

        Also, in Hungary overtime pay is for anything past 40 hours, not 44, so another point for Hungary. I also explained many circumstances where an employee would want to bank those hours. Take a Newfoundland welder earning $40,000/year in Newfoundland, going over to work in the oil patch in Alberta for three years. They could reduce their tax liability by banking hours like Hungary law allows, while also improving their income security for another three years after returning to Newfoundland.

        The biggest lie that is being pushed here is that the Hungarian law forces anything on employees. Overtime has to be agreed to, just like anywhere else, and so do deferred payments.

        Lastly, I want to point out that Hungarian government has already done more for Hungarian workers than any previous government, by simply creating jobs. This allows workers to fight for higher wages, as well as working conditions.

        Ask yourself why it is that the workers in France, where the most rigid labor laws exist are the ones protesting on the streets. They should be happiest, right?

        • „The biggest lie that is being pushed here is that the Hungarian law forces anything on employees. Overtime has to be agreed to, just like anywhere else, and so do deferred payments.“

          Joe do you want to go to work on Saturday? Joe no. Joe you did not understand, do you want to go to work on Monday! Then who is the biggest liar … Joe

          • I usually make it a point to avoid answering you, but in this case I will make an exception. Yes, you are right, but that is the same story in every country I ever worked in or visited. The part that makes it harder for employers to do so in Hungary right now, is the fact that there are now 4.5 million people employed, which is significantly more than any time in past 30 years, meaning that employers have to think twice before letting someone go for not agreeing to do overtime. Having someone who does not agree to overtime is much better than having no one at all.

          • Ah, I’m right … then Joe is the biggest liar … Back in Egypt at the time of the pyramid building, there was not one unemployed person.

  2. Everything is about the money, so Orbán’s daughter also got a husband. The price of freedom is imprisonment … basically, not two-thirds of politicians are a problem but the morals that they represent. Is morale a burden … I think the problem starts in kindergarten. If we hurry, we will have the first prototype in 10 – 18 years.

  3. Overtime is voluntary. Overtime production efficiency falls. The best scenario is to increase efficiency during regular working hours.

    Since there is a labor shortage, no one will be fired for declining to work overtime. There would be a problem with replacement and training which would drop production efficiency.

    • mburka
      Wow!
      You said something true – Overtime work is less productive indeed and the best scenario is to increase productivity, Yes.
      Problem is that productivity has been stagnant for years in Hu, despite the expanding car manufacturing, which is one of the most productive sectors, ie. the productivity of the rest must have dropped.

  4. Joe you pollute and poison the world of thought. You spread so much idiocy that your posts displace the thoughts of the text. Every world without Joe is a better one.

    • DK
      Moreover Joe’s ruling party is waging veritable war on thought, and seems to be winning if we look at the academic scores.
      Yes, Joe and ilk are the worst enemies of the nation; as long as there are these “Christians” and nemzeti here, there’ll be no nemzet (Sàndor Màrai).

      • Fifteen years ago, I accompanied a German and Hungarian dance- and music-troupe, there were also two teachers there. I knew everyone personally. As one of the teachers in the group said caution he knows Hungarian language …

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