40 hour week fades away

40 hour week fades away
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In Mexico, workers in the industry work an average of 52 hours a week, while in Europe, the United States and several Latin American countries, the 40-hour debate is being left behind to review even a 38-hour day per week.

So we are an unusual case. This was warned by several voices in the Open Parliament held in the Chamber of Deputies during five consultation forums with actors in the production cycle who analyzed the pros and cons of a reform that today would seem to be headed for the freezer:

Modify the Article 123 of the Constitution to reduce 8 hours to the working day legally established at 48.

And although the deputies promoting this change argue that this is a matter of plain justice and should not be delayed further or politicized in the electoral situation, the truth is that the debate revealed underlying dilemmas that now hinder its viability. .

Among the conclusions in favor of the reform, those that point out that it is a human rights issue contained in international conventions on labor matters stand out because it guarantees mental health, family well-being and, consequently, productivity supported by a better quality of life for workers. employees.

But voices were raised against the ruling by labor law specialists and representatives of corporations and small and medium-sized businesses, warning that, suddenly, this change in the Constitution would force the hiring of other employees who would have to replace the remaining eight hours. leading many SMEs to survival problems.


This last point, which involves 95% of businessmen in Mexico, led the Political Coordination Board that convened this Open Parliament exercise to make a decision last Tuesday, November 14: reformulate the opinion that had been approved in April this year.

The president of the Jucopo, Jorge Romero Herrera, reported that among the heads of the groups that make up the Chamber of Deputies they had determined that, with the content of the five forums held, the Constitutional Points Commission would build a new proposal that would assign gradualness. to the reform, a reiterated demand particularly by SMEs.

The opinion approved seven months ago with 25 votes in favor and five abstentions from the PAN in said commission never went up to the plenary session of the deputies.

The reform seeks to update section IV of section A of article 123 of the Constitution so that working hours per week are reduced from 48 to 40 and additionally indicates that mandatory breaks would go from one to two days.

Because the current session period will end on December 15, the Jucopo ruled out that the reform could be carried out in 2023, since after being processed among the deputies, it must be reviewed in the Senate and, subsequently, have at least 17 votes. in favor of an equal number of state congresses, since these are changes to the Constitution.

The next and last section of the current legislature will take place between February 1 and April 30, a period in which the reduction of the working day from 48 to 40 hours could be resumed if a consensus opinion is achieved, since that in the plenary session of both chambers the support of two-thirds of the legislators is also needed for it to be approved.

In addition to the dilemmas that put the interests of employees and employers in tension and that the parliamentarians of the Constitutional Points Commission will seek to overcome with a proposal that leaves all parties moderately satisfied, this reform has against it the electoral situation that by then will be at its peak.


But kicking the can down the road is not a solution. Because what the Open Parliament revealed is that Mexico is at the tail end of a labor law that has become a condition for competitiveness and investment attraction.

One of the participations that showed this was that of Saúl Alfonso Escobar Toledo, economist and research professor at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, when he offered comparative data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) that shows that Mexican industrial workers have the Longest working times in the world.

Mexico does 52 hours average; “We work more than in El Salvador and more than in several Latin American countries,” said the former federal representative.

He explained that there is a constant decrease in working hours throughout the world, with the exception of Africa and Asia where they increased from 1985 to 2010, but then also the working hours in the latter continent.

Escobar Toledo explained that in Europe the weekly work day is on average 32 hours; in Spain, for example, it has been at 34 since 1983; in Brazil it is 44 and in Argentina it is 40. And, in all cases, he highlighted, the average income per hour worked increased.

"Mexico is an exceptional case, an unusual case, because the average annual working hours were not reduced as in other countries in the world and, at the same time, the average income per hour of work was frozen," said the academic.

The subject scholar explained that a reduction in the working day would automatically generate an increase in the country's hourly payment and would encourage companies to improve their productivity.

And Escobar Toledo warned: “If we do not reduce the working day, we run the risk of promoting a maquiladora economy scheme of low added value and intensive in labor force, as in the recent past. We cannot settle for that past, we must seek a more modern and productive economy.”


Francisco Javier Peniche, a legal services professional recognized by Chambers and Partners Latin America and accredited in various international consulting associations in this field, shared a diagnosis of the risks.

As a specialist, he was in charge of the design and leadership of the restructuring process of more than 100 global companies that in 2021 had to comply with the labor reform in Mexico regarding subcontracting, eliminating the so-called outsourcing.

In his presentation to the deputies, he pointed out that a responsible reform is required, based on the approaches of social dialogue that took place throughout five forums in San Lázaro.

It is undeniable that those workers who are subjected to exhausting and long days have consequences that affect their physical health and mental health, and that those who are effectively subject to these days have little time for recreation or time to be with their families. ”he described.

But he summarized that also in this consultation exercise there were many speakers and testimonies that warned of the consequences that would have to be approved as endorsed in April, affecting 95% of the country's small and medium-sized companies.

Furthermore, he warned that “we must try to avoid distortions of origin in this opinion and what do I mean by distortions of origin? That the consequence is not that those spaces of time that the workers are leaving are covered either with extraordinary payment or with payments for days of rest worked or that these hours are covered with workers in a second or third job, because then we are not complying "the measure of what is really being sought, which is for workers to rest more."

Holder of the Collective Law chair at the Universidad Panamericana and with postgraduate studies at Yale University and Georgetown University, Franciso Javier Peniche emphasized that if it is assumed that the reform seeks to settle a historical debt with workers, rest must be provided as a right for all people and therefore include those who are in informal employment, through incentives, subsidies or agreements that allow them to migrate towards formality.


Fernando Salgado Delgado, deputy general secretary of the National Committee of the Confederation of Mexican Workerslike dozens of representatives of the sector who made themselves heard before the legislators, warned them that voting against this reform would have costs for those who resolve it.

I don't want to claim victory, but it is evident that the social mood that exists today in Mexico will, at the very least, cause the deputies to say yes (to the reform); It seems to me that he would put the noose around his neck right now if someone raised their hand to say no.”

He recalled that the 40-hour demand was made 50 years ago by the iconic union leader of the then state party that was the PRI, Fidel Velázquez.

Today we are waiting for the response. It seems to me that it is inescapably favorable to the Congress of the Union,” confided the Cetemist who has been a federal deputy on two occasions.

When arguing about the urgency of this change in the face of the pro-equality consciousness that exists in the country, Salgado Delgado ironically: “If I tell a fellow worker who is looking for her to have, instead of one, two days of rest, frankly she will He would laugh at me, Fernando would tell me what's wrong, you're a man, women don't have a break."

The union representative argued that the essence of the reform is to completely restructure the country's working life, resolving a right that has been postponed since 1987.

Productivity is not more work but better work,” said the cetemista.

And I do want to ask you a favor, deputies, that this does not happen to us, what happened to the seventh section of the constitutional article 123 itself, with equal work; equal salary. 100 years have passed and we just haven't gotten there. I order them there,” he concluded.


Denisse Álvarez, founder and general director of Dasavena Gourmet Foods, started her business in the kitchen of her apartment 13 years ago; She currently employs 180 people, mainly women, in an FSSC 22000 certified plant; She sells her products in more than 800 convenience stores nationwide, as well as in Texas, and in distribution companies in the United States.

His testimony represented small and medium-sized businesses at the closing of this Open Parliament last Monday, November 13.

I am in favor of this great proposal; The learnings I had in my various jobs as an employee taught me to be an entrepreneur, where my people always come first, and we can always improve our benefits and their quality of life. And to achieve this we need to take care of the financial health and profitability of these businesses, because it takes so much work to start from scratch and grow.

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I am of the idea that for this proposal to be achieved and fulfill its purpose, those points that many before me have brought here should be taken into account: the possibility that this reform can be carried out gradually.

People like Guille, like Caty, Sele, who are today my leaders in production, and many entrepreneurial women who own SMEs and small and medium-sized businesses, with whom I have a lot of contact, can jeopardize the project that with so much love, with so much inclusion, with so much effort they have been building, to carry out the reform as proposed, without a hitch.

We are concerned that, if carried out in this way, I insist, instead of benefiting our people, by affecting our own small businesses, they will be affected because we will not be able to continue offering everything that we offer today nor continue offering and improving," he warned.

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