Thursday, June 13, 2024

40-hour workweek law may soon pass in lower house of Congress

A bill to reduce Mexico’s constitutionally enshrined 48-hour workweek over six days to 40 hours over five could be approved by the Chamber of Deputies by the middle of December, according to the leader of the ruling Morena party in the lower house of Congress.

Ignacio Mier said Wednesday that Morena is aiming to get the legislation approved before the Dec. 15 conclusion of the final congressional period of 2023. The Chamber has been considering the bill since April but the vote has been repeatedly postponed.

Mexico's Chamber of Deputies
Morena hopes the Chamber of Deputies will pass the constitutional change by mid-December. (Chamber of Deputies)

As it seeks to change the constitution, the bill requires the support of two-thirds of lawmakers in both houses of Congress in order to become law.

Morena and its allies don’t have a two-thirds majority in the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, but there is support for the bill among opposition parties, albeit with some reservations.

“There is the possibility of approving it in this [congressional] period,” Mier said of the bill, which seeks to ensure that workers have two days of rest per week.

“That’s the intention Morena has had since we presented the initiative,” he said.

A worker in Mexico
Mexican workers are currently subject to a 48-hour workweek that runs Monday through Saturday. (Jessica Palomo/Unsplash)

The bill, which seeks to reform article 123 of the Mexican constitution, has recently been the subject of an “open parliament” process convened by the Chamber of Deputies, during which employers, workers, union leaders, academics and others expressed their views in five forums.

It will now be considered by the the Chamber of Deputies, and parties and individual lawmakers will have the opportunity to express concerns and propose changes via congressional committees, according to Mier.

Susana Prieto Terrazas, a Morena deputy and the main proponent of the bill, said Wednesday that “various experts” attended the open parliament sessions and told lawmakers that workers are more productive when they work less.

“There is good news for the business people who have been saying for years that we need to produce more. With the reduction of the … [workweek], we will produce more,” she said.

“… That’s another benefit of the initiative. And when … [employers] say that payroll costs will increase, these [still] won’t exceed 2% of the cost of finished products when sold to the public. We’re talking about crumbs for business people,” Prieto said.

If the bill passes the lower house of Congress, it will be sent to the Senate, where additional modifications could take place. Changes to the Federal Labor Law will be required to set up the regulations for a 40-hour week if the initiative finds sufficient support among lawmakers.

Rubén Moreira, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the Chamber of Deputies, said that his party is in favor of a 40-hour work week, but indicated that the outcomes of the open parliament process still needed to be looked at.

His National Action Party (PAN) counterpart Jorge Romero said that the impact of a 40-hour week on small and medium-sized businesses needs to be considered.

“Not all employers … are huge multinational companies with almost infinite budgets. … We have to look after … micro, small and medium-sized companies, to whom one worker more or one worker less makes a big difference,” he said.

However, “we’re certain that we can find that balance,” Romero said.

A woman speaks at a podium
Morena Deputy Susana Prieto is sponsoring the bill to modify the length of the workweek. (Chamber of Deputies)

PRI Deputy Tereso Medina Ramírez said that employers should see the reduction of the workweek as an investment.

“International organizations have said and maintained that it’s not true that working more hours leads to better productivity. I call on [employers] to see this as an investment,” he said before advocating a discussion about worker training and how that can help increase productivity.

With the support of the PRI and the PAN, the 40-hour workweek bill will sail through both houses of Congress.

Many Mexicans have expressed their support for the initiative on social media using the hashtag #YoPorLas40Horas (I’m in favor of 40 hours).

“Everyone says that reducing the work week is fair and that it’s time [to do it],” said Morena Deputy Manuel Baldenbro, president of the lower house’s labor committee.

Nobody — not even employers — “has said it’s unfair, nobody has said it’s not time,” he asserted, although some business groups have expressed opposition to the bill.

Though domestic workers already had basic workers' rights in theory, the new modification to Mexico's social security law aims to close loopholes and provide a path toward wider implementation.
Mexicans workers are some of the most overworked in the world, according to data from the OECD, and intergovernmental organization. (Twitter @Tu_IMSS)

According to 2018 OECD data cited by the World Population View, Mexico is the “most overworked country” in the world.

“The average annual hours worked in Mexico is 2,148 hours, making it the most overworked country. The average workweek for full-time employees in Mexico is about 48.5 hours. About 28.7% of Mexican employees work over 50 hours per week,” the independent research organization said in an article entitled “Most Overworked Countries 2023.”

According to national statistics agency INEGI, around 15 million Mexicans work more than 48 hours a week.

“Us Mexicans work a lot,” Juan Contreras, a 48-year-old parking attendant who puts in 60-hour weeks, told The Financial Times.

“It’s our culture from our parents, grandparents that worked in the fields, … long days with very little pay.”

Mexico’s daily minimum wage remains low by international standards, but has more than doubled during the term of the current government to reach 207 pesos (about US $12) at the start of 2023, up from 88 pesos when President López Obrador took office in late 2018.

An additional increase of a yet-to-be determined size will take effect at the start of 2024.

With reports from El Financiero and El País

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