Another day of protests in Hungary against 'slave' labour law

A few thousand demonstrators gathered in freezing temperatures outside Hungary's state broadcaster Monday night in a fifth day of protests against the right-wing government of PM Viktor Orban. The protests were sparked by a new labour law that in essence enables the return of a six-day work week, if an employee agrees, with overtime payments potentially unpaid for up to three years.

But the demands of protesters have expanded to include cleaning up state corruption, creating an independent judiciary and ensuring neutral state media.

Lawmakers from all opposition parties took to a temporary podium to declare they would continue protests until they are allowed to read out their demands on state television. Demonstrators repeatedly chanted slogans like "We won't leave" and "They are lying day and night!"

The new labour law allows employers to ask for up to 400 hours of overtime work per year, leading critics to label it the "slave law". The government also passed a law to set up new administrative courts that will answer to the government and oversee sensitive issues such as electoral law, protests and corruption issues.

"This government ignores us, workers," Tamas Szekely, deputy head of the Hungarian Trade Unions' Association said in a speech. "We must raise our voice and give an answer." Orban has often clashed with Brussels as he has built a system that his critics see as autocratic, boosting his control over the courts and the media.

Civil rights watchdogs said the new courts law was the latest erosion of democratic institutions under Orban, who rose to power in 2010. Last week police used tear gas on protesters at parliament. The ruling party Fidesz said on Saturday, in reaction to the protests, that it was "increasingly obvious that criminals have been part of the street riots organized by the Soros-network."

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