The labyrinth of reducing the working day to 40 hours: businessmen close ranks against the reform and López Obrador asks for more time

The reform to reduce the working day from 48 to 40 hours a week is adrift. Although the initiative was presented since October 2022 by the Morena representative, Susana Prieto Terrazas, the document has not been submitted for voting in the plenary session less than 10 days before the end of the session in the Chamber of Deputies. If it does not advance at this time, it will not be able to continue its debate in the Senate in 2024, the last year of López Obrador’s government. Outside, businessmen are closing ranks against the measure: magnate Carlos Slim—the richest man in Mexico—and most of the leaders of the business elite, while in the National Palace, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called to extend the deadline for its discussion with the objective that “all voices” are heard.

López Obrador considered that it is not necessary to resolve the issue in this legislative period, which officially concludes on December 15. The president advocates continuing his discussion as of February 1, 2024. With a measured style, the president has urged seeking consensus and conciliation between legislators and workers with private initiative. “The debate is good. I would even respectfully propose that December 12 not become a fatal date, that we give ourselves time and even review what is happening in other countries. Everything that is in favor of the worker has to be considered as an act of justice, but it is also important to take into account the factors of the production process,” the president declared this Tuesday in his usual press conference.

The opening of the Executive for a broader discussion on the reform occurs days after the richest man in Mexico, businessman Carlos Slim expressed his rejection of the initiative. “I believe that it is better for people to work 48 hours and earn more than for them to work 40 hours and earn less. That is very important for the population, to have a higher income, to have greater purchasing power and that is what the president has achieved, the figures were given,” said the Mexican magnate, after the inauguration of the Tulum airport, last 1 from December.

In line with the honorary and life president of América Móvil, the majority of business leaders in Mexico have turned their backs on the possibility of employing their workers fewer hours. Higher personnel costs and a loss of competitiveness are the main risks that private initiative warns of if the country endorses a working day of 40 hours per week. “I don’t think this is the time, I have faith that the legislators will analyze it well due to the fact that there is no workforce and at the moment it is complicated,” José Abugaber, leader of the Confederation of Industrial Chambers, recently declared ( Concamin).

Despite the business front against her, the Morenoist deputy and author of the initiative, Susana Prieto Terrazas, assures that she will not take any step back in her attempt to bring this ambitious labor reform to the San Lázaro plenary session. “Here in the Chamber of Deputies there is nothing else to do other than vote on the reform, this week they will turn it over to the board of directors and next week it will be ready to be voted on. I will never lose my enthusiasm, a statement from the president cannot put an end to my fighting spirit,” she says.

Prieto Terrazas warns that if President López Obrador considers that the initiative is not sufficiently disseminated, his discussion should be allowed during the morning, in the National Palace, but that its discussion is not delayed any longer, especially if one considers that next year the presidential elections will focus the political debate. “I believe that just as business owners have closed ranks, workers must close ranks for their benefit,” he mentioned. In this race against legislative time, a handful of protests have been organized in the vicinity of the Chamber of Deputies to demand that the constitutional reform be endorsed by the deputies and advance its discussion towards the Senate, despite these demonstrations in the streets, In the premises the document is still unable to walk.

For the labor law expert, Manuel Fuentes, in Mexico the current 48-hour work week is still violated because there are workers, especially in the agricultural and livestock sector, where people work up to 12 continuous hours. The specialist points out that the Executive’s statements are not gratuitous and coincide with the lobbying that businessmen have done to stop the reduction of working hours in the Legislative Branch. “Even though it is not something formal, Carlos Slim is one of President López Obrador’s main advisors, he is listened to,” he concludes.

According to the most recent data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mexico is one of the countries where people dedicate the most time of their lives to their jobs: 2,226 hours worked per year, a higher figure than to Costa Rica, Chile, Israel or Russia. The last time a modification was made to the work day in Mexico was in 1917, more than a century ago. In the coming days the question will dissipate whether another year will have to be added to this period of waiting.

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