Friday, June 14, 2024

Vote on 40-hour workweek bill unlikely until next year, lawmakers say

The lower house of Congress won’t consider a bill to reduce Mexico’s constitutionally enshrined 48-hour workweek over six days to 40 hours over five until 2024, according to lawmakers.

Ignacio Mier, leader of the ruling Morena party in the Chamber of Deputies, said in late November that Morena was aiming to get the legislation approved before the Dec. 15 conclusion of the final congressional period of 2023.

However, lawmakers who spoke with Reuters and Forbes México said that won’t happen.

Juan Robledo, a Morena deputy and president of the lower house’s constitutional points committee, told Reuters that there was no time to pass the bill this year.

Julieta Mejía, a Citizens Movement party deputy, told Forbes that she and other lawmakers were informed by Robledo that there is currently insufficient support to get the bill through the 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.

Juan Robledo
Morena deputy Juan Robledo, president of the Chamber of Deputies constitutional points committee, said there wouldn’t be enough time this session to pass the bill. (Canal del Congreso)

“There’s no political will to approve [the bill] this year,” Mejía said, adding that she hoped that the legislation will be discussed when Congress reconvenes in February.

She said that the National Action Party (PAN) is responsible for the delay. Some PAN lawmakers have expressed concerns about the impact of a 40-hour workweek on business.

“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,” Jorge Romero, leader of the PAN in the Chamber of Deputies, said last month.

Reuters — which said it was informed by “five lawmaking sources” that the 40-hour workweek bill was unlikely to be approved this year — reported that business groups and the PAN are resisting the legislation.

A worker in Mexico
Morena lawmakers cited experts saying that reduced work hours can boost productivity. (Jessica Palomo/Unsplash)

Esperanza Ortega, president of the National Chamber for Industrial Transformation (Canacintra), said last week that reducing the workweek could increase costs for businesses by 10-20%.

“This will impact the final consumer,” the Canacintra chief added.

Ortega said that any reduction in the length of the workweek should be accompanied by increased productivity.

Addressing that issue last month, Morena Deputy Susana Prieto Terrazas, the main proponent of the bill, said that “various experts” had told lawmakers that workers are more productive when they work less.

Lorenzo Roel, head of the labor commission at Mexico’s influential Business Coordinating Council, said that if the bill becomes law, companies could collectively have to hire 2.6 million additional workers at reduced hours, adding US $20 billion to their payroll expenses.

President López Obrador, a pro-labor leader who has advocated significant raises to the minimum wage during his five years in office and overseen an increase in annual vacation days for employees, last week appeared to acknowledge that the workweek bill wouldn’t pass Congress this year and called on lawmakers to deepen their analysis.

A woman in a red suit jacket speaks into a microphone
Canacintra President Esperanza Ortega said the bill could substantially increase business operating costs, concerns echoed by PAN lawmakers and other business councils. (Canacintra/X)

“Let’s have more time and invite everyone in and review what’s happening in other countries,” he said.

López Obrador has proposed holding another “open parliament” process, during which employers, workers, union leaders, academics and others have the opportunity to express views.

Morena Deputy Hamlet García said that was a possibility, but noted that it will be up to the leaders of the various parties represented in Congress to decide whether to convene additional open parliament forums before the legislation is put to a vote.

Mexico has the longest working hours, the lowest labor productivity and lowest salaries among the 38 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Reuters reported.

At some 2,226 hours per year per worker, working hours in Mexico are around 500 hours longer than the OECD average, the news agency said.

With reports from Reuters and Forbes 


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