Sunday, July 1, 2018

Vienna Protests: Thousands rallied against government's plans to extend working day to 12 hours

Tens of thousands of people in Vienna packed the streets on Saturday 30th June to voice their opposition to the new anti-worker laws of the far-right government which include a 12-hour workday and subsequent 60-hour workweek. 

While Austrian police said some 80,000 people took part, organizers by the Austrian Trade Union Confederation talk about a massive demonstration of 100,000-120,000 participants from all provinces and industries. 

"We will resist with all means at our disposal," Wolfgang Katzian, president of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB), told the crowd of protesters. Katzian called on the Austrian government to let voters decide on the 12-hour workday issue in a referendum.

Currently, Austria has an eight-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek; however, there's a provision in place allowing companies to have their employees work up to 10 hours a day and up to 50 hours a week. From its side, the far-right government, comprised of Sebastian Kurz People's Party (ÖVP) and the populist right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ), has admitted that the changes to the labor laws are needed in order to give businesses (capitalists) more flexibility. 

The Party of Labour of Austria (Partei der Arbeit, PdA) participated with its own block in the demonstration, having an information table at the beginning of the rally at Vienna's Westbahnhof station and circulating leaflets against the government's anti-worker plans. 

The dynamic response of the Austrian labor movement, urged the Kurz government to back down and announce that employees will be allowed to refuse to work overtime without giving a reason. The draft law is expected to be passed by the Austrian parliament on Thursday. 

(AFP, dpa, PdA)