The Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance is ready to use all possible measures, including a referendum bid, to stop the Fidesz-sponsored bill on overtime which would raise the upper threshold for annual overtime from 250 to 400 hours in its tracks, the leaders of the opposition parties said.
Socialist Party leader Bertalan Tóth told a press conference the bill’s aim was to address the country’s labour shortage by forcing Hungarians to work more. He accused the government of making a “secret pact” with multinational companies to this end.
He dismissed the ruling party’s insistence that overtime would be voluntary, adding that vulnerable workers would be forced to serve their employer’s interests. “The Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance will take all necessary steps to mobilise worker resistance,” he said, adding that its members planned to attend a related demonstration on Saturday. If the bill is accepted, the parties will turn to President János Áder and ask him to initiate a constitutional review, he said.
Párbeszéd co-leader Tímea Szabó said a popular vote may be needed to thwart the “slave law”. The bill would open the door to a six-day week “without payment”, she said. Szabó said the shortage of skilled labour was due to hundreds of thousands of young Hungarians leaving the country during Fidesz rule.
Lajos Kósa, one of the bill’s proponents, recently said that increasing the number of hours employees may be required to work overtime is “not possible without their consent” under changes made to the bill in light of negotiations with trade unions. He said the bill “is aimed at dismantling administrative barriers in the labour code to allow employees to earn more through more work done on a voluntary basis”.
Reacting at the end of last month to opposition criticism of the bill, he said basic principles such as working for eight hours a day, five days a week with two days off would remain unchanged. He also insisted that if the bill is passed into law, employers would continue to settle payments for overtime once a year. “Claims that employees would only be paid for their overtime once every three years is nonsense,” Kósa said.