Chaos erupts as Hungarian Parliament passes judicial, ‘slave’ laws

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Photo: Kremlin/

Dec. 13 (UPI) — Hungary’s Parliament passed two laws Wednesday to allow employers to demand more overtime work and gives the government greater control over the judiciary — in a session marked by chaos in the chamber.

The National Assembly, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s right-wing Fidesz Party, approved the laws despite members of the opposition blowing whistles, physically blocking lawmakers from reaching the dais and shouting questions.

One of the new laws, called the “slave law” by critics, increases the amount of overtime employers can force their employees to work — from 250 to 400 hours per year. The law could add an extra eight working hours per week for employees.

The proposed law drew protesters over the weekend who demanded higher wages, not longer working hours. Trade unions were critical of the legislation because it allows employers to enter into overtime negotiations directly with employees and not go through the unions.

Lawmakers in support of the law say it helps employers and employees amid a manpower shortage.

“We have to remove bureaucratic rules so that those who want to work and earn more can do so,” Orbán said.

The other law creates new courts to oversee some government administrative cases, meaning the Supreme Court will no longer have the ultimate say in the cases, which could include disputes over electoral practice and corruption.

Opposition members said the law was another way Orbán has attempted to take over once-independent institutions, including some media outlets. Though the government said the courts would be independent, the justice minister will oversee their budget and appoint judges.

Opponents created a scene of chaos Wednesday amid the passage of the laws, with one MP blowing a whistle into Orbán’s face and others preventing the house speaker from leading the session from the dais.

“In Fidesz we believe it [being subject to such acts] goes with the service of the nation,” Orbán told Hungarian news agency Magyar Távirati Iroda.

“I pay attention to everyone, especially the trade unions, I observe their opinions, respect the freedom of opinion and take all the arguments raised into consideration. In this case, I believe the arguments raised weighed less than the bill. This is a good law that will work to the benefit of employees,” he added.

Human rights group Hungarian Helsinki Committee called the laws “a serious threat to the rule of law” and said it “runs counter to values Hungary signed up to when it joined the European Union.”

The laws still must be ratified by President Janos Ader.

In September, the European Parliament voted to censure Hungary, accusing Orbán’s government of violating EU values and democracy.

“We stand up for the rights of all Europeans, including Hungarian citizens and we defend our European values,” said Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green parliament member who led the effort. “Now it is up to European leaders to take responsibility and stop watching from the sidelines as the rule of law is destroyed in Hungary. This is unacceptable for a Union that is built on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.”


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