The Sunday fights
November 23, 2010
Posted by on
As in other European countries and even at EU level, Christian churches are lobbying also in Hungary for a ban on working on Sundays. With a twist.
While banning Sunday work was put on the agenda by the Christian democrats (KDNP), the far right party Jobbik has picked up the issue and introduced yesterday a proposal to ban employers from requiring their employees to work on Sundays. With loopholes, of course.
While according to the bill, it will be forbidden to work on Sundays, companies that due to the nature of their work have to stay open on Sundays (such as tourism, police, health services, or factories producing on a 24/7 basis, and, probably, church services, though they are not mentioned separately) may do so but will have to pay double wages to their staff (except if they are hired part-time for work on Saturday and Sunday), who may not work more than 6 hours on Sundays.
However, the bill (which by the way is orthographically somewhat challenged) does not only aim to amend labour law but also the law regulating retailers. While the justification of the proposal says that the aim is to protect human dignity and the family (as an institution) and refers to tradition and the religious freedom of Christian workers, there is an unmistakable nationalist edge to it, which gets us to the twist. The issue of Sunday work has also earlier been connected to the evil multinational supermarkets exploiting the Hungarian workforce to maximise their revenue, and this reappears in the justification of the proposal, according to which the present regulation of Sunday work is too weak and does not serve anyone except multinational companies, but violates the constitution (obviously you can’t enjoy family life on Saturdays and rest on any other day than Sunday) as well as free market competition, because according to the proponents (who don’t give any details), smaller retailers are disadvantaged compared to big ones. The proposed changes to the law on retail services basically amount to closing down big supermarkets on Sundays (with the exception of 12 Sundays a year), while small shops which can be run with no more than 2 employees working at a time and shops smaller than 175 square meters located at train stations, airports and the like may offer their services also on Sundays – except for Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
The former suggestions by KDNP were more specifically directed at preferring the CBA retail franchise, whose owners, the Lázár brothers (who are also internationally renown as horse coach drivers) have heavily supported the Fidesz-KDNP pair before the elections. The KDNP suggestion would have forced big supermarkets to stay closed on Sundays, while CBA shops would have been able to open.
However, no one has ever given an explanation why being exploited by a national employer is more acceptable than working for a foreign company. But this is of course not so much about workers rights but rather about church power.
The proposed bill: http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/01764/01764.pdf