In protest against government measures considered disadvantageous to workers, Hungary’s League of Trade Unions (Liga Szakszervezetek) announced last week that its members would partially obstruct roads across the country on Monday, December 15. Liga president István Gaskó announced that some 1600 vehicles would partially block roads in 62 locations on Monday between 7 am and 4 pm.
The country-wide protest was partially prompted by the announcement that the creation of a national tobacco distributor would result in the loss of some 1600 private-sector jobs because, by law, tobacco companies would not be permitted to sell directly to tobacco retailers but only to one company designated by the government. Parliament was scheduled to pass the law this afternoon.
Origo.hu reports that just after 11 am police removed protestors chanting “(We want) constitution, democracy and a welfare state!” from the entrance to parliament’s new underground garage.
Shortly after a group of demonstrators arrived at nearby Kossuth square in front of parliament carrying a banner saying “If we don’t have work, three rooms, we are left with three hungry children, and the four wheels are lost”.
Instead of a petition, protestors handed out bars of chocolate bearing photographs of the affected workers’ family members and the following text: “What I would like for Christmas is for my parents not to lose their workplace. Please help this come about! Vote ‘no’ on the law affecting the tobacco industry!”
At 3 pm radical right-wing Jobbik member of parliament and deputy parliamentary president Tamás Sneider expressed his party’s sympathy with the demonstrators and called on the government to end the “evisceration of people living from work”.
At 4 pm Gaskó announced that some 3000 people and 1300-1400 vehicles had participated in the country-wide action.
Propeller.hu subsequently published photographs of prime minister Viktor Orbán and KDNP chairman Zsolt Semjén sharing one of the chocolate bars in parliament. It is not known whether they consumed the chocolate before or after passing the tobacco law to which the protesters handing out the chocolate were objecting.