With the votes of the coalition government of Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz’s conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Nationalist Liberal Party, as well as the votes of the neo-liberal opposition party NEW (New Austria), the Austrian Parliament approved the controversial law to allow 12-hour work days. The new law will come to force on 1st September instead of 1st January 2019 as originally planned.
The proposal was opposed by the Social Democrat Group in Austrian parliament, whose leader Christian Cervin denounced it as “unfair, immature and totally absurd”, and a “massive deterioration”. Prior to the vote, the country’s parliament rejected the left parties’ proposal to hold a referendum on the issue.
According to the Austrian government, the 8 hours working day will remain, while the new regulation will relax the rules for employment and enable workers to work up to 12 hour a day. This, according to the government, is supposed to be optional. However, it is certain that the workers will be forced to succumb to the demands of employers and the move is considered a massive blowback to workers’ rights in Austria by the country’s left.
The new law was pushed through the parliament amid the mass protest held in Vienna earlier this week. The demonstration, organised by fiercely opposed to the new rule trade unions, was the first mass protest action to take place since Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz entered office at the end of 2017. It gathered up to 100,000 in the country’s capital. “We will resist [the new law] with all means at our disposal,” Wolfgang Katzian, president of the Austrian trade union federation, said during the protest.