As Orbán spoke last Tuesday, about 40 people marched in freezing weather to Budapest from Borsod County, one of the country's poorest, hoping to bring the plight of their region to the government's attention.
The so-called "Work, Bread" march was the idea of Imre Tóth, an unemployed, 44-year-old steel worker deeply affected by the death of a friend who recently committed suicide because of his dire economic situation. "This hunger march signals that we are close to dying of hunger and our livelihood is barely secured," Tóth said while pausing for a roadside lunch near the town of Bukkabrany, about 40 kilometers into the journey and 150 kilometers from their destination. "It was the inflexibility and inhumanity of this country's government which moved us to launch our protest." Several opposition politicians, activists and residents of Borsod County joined Tóth's march, which planned to advance around 25 kilometers a day escorted by two police cars and enduring freezing temperatures, snowdrifts and biting wind.
After marching 26 kilometres in temperatures below -10°C, on Tuesday evening, the Hunger March arrived in the town of Mezőkövesd. There, they were received by the major of the town and his predecessor, the current MP for the region as well as interior ministry state secretary András Tállai, both Fidesz. In response to the "Work, bread!" slogan of the protest, cynically, they offered the protesters bread and hot tea and told them, "Those who want work do get work, you can go shovelling the snow!" Unfortunately for them, they didn't quite plan for the reaction:
The protesters themselves (who were forewarned by the local SOcialists) said OK, and went shovelling snow until midnight – some of them officially for money, in the framework of the government's debasing 'public works programme', the rest (who were either barred or didn't want to give out their personal data) for free. The next morning, about 30 jobless people turned up in front of the mayor's office, hoping to take up the same job offered to the protesters. However, there was no job to take: the whole snow shovelling offer was pure PR, as the local authority contracted snow removal to a private company. One of the minor debasing elements of the 'public works programme' is that all applicants have to submit to an alcohol test. There was one positive among the four protesters: the sole person who accepted the tea offered by the mayor and the state secretary. However, even this apparent dirty trick led to a blowback: state secretary Tállai, who went on to arrogantly instruct the protesters in the proper way of snow shovelling, was visibly drunk, so protesters asked him to take the alcohol test himself, which he refused.
The hunger marchers who left Miskolc last Monday arrived outside Parliament yesterday afternoon after braving the cold weather to cover some 200 kilometres to promote their request for work and bread.
Almost the entire Socialist caucus as well as two LMP MPs who had marched with them were on hand on to welcome the group.
In Parliament Nándor Gúr, chairman of the Socialist Party's Borsod county chapter, placed Ft 47,000 before state secretary Zoltán Cséfalvay, as Economy Minister György Matolcsy had said earlier that one can live off that amount.
Cséfalvay pushed the money aside and said wages have grown in real terms and so has employment.
Socialist MP István Nyakó asked employment state secretary Sándor Czomba when decent jobs and wages will prevail in Hungary.
Czomba answered that employment has grown and people see that the government's 18-month performance is not to blame for the state of the country.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 16:08