As U.S. considers the 4-day work week, Mexico debates the 6-day week | EUROtoday

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CANCÚN, Mexico — On a current Friday, like almost on daily basis, Maricela de la Cruz wakened at 5 a.m. She caught two buses to get from her dad and mom’ modest condominium on the outskirts of Cancún to the J.W. Marriott Resort & Spa. As vacationers sunned on the white-sand seashore outdoors, she spent eight hours scrubbing loos and making beds.

The 28-year-old housekeeper works six days each week. So do thousands and thousands of different working-class folks in Mexico — resort workers, auto assemblers, waiters.

But now, staff within the United States’ No. 1 buying and selling accomplice are rebelling. The Mexican Congress is debating a constitutional modification to ensure staff two days off per week, a proposal pushed by unions. Over eight many years after President Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered within the five-day workweek within the United States, it lastly may be coming to Mexico.

“Every worker dreams of this,” de la Cruz mentioned. “More social justice.”

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The Mexican staff’ battle for the 40-hour week comes amid a rising international debate over work schedules. Yet there’s a huge divide in how that dialog is enjoying out. While North Americans and Europeans experiment with a four-day week, many staff in growing international locations toil six days — or extra. (In India, a tech billionaire not too long ago prompted an uproar by suggesting a 70-hour week.)

The debate goes to elementary questions of staff’ rights and their obligations to their firms and their nations’ improvement.

De la Cruz joined hundreds of cooks, waitresses, bellboys and gardeners marching by means of downtown Cancún underneath a late-afternoon solar final month, chanting “Yes to two days off!”

“We’ve seen how other countries have shorter hours than us,” she mentioned.

But Mexico is much less productive than extra developed international locations, mentioned Jesús Almaguer, president of the Hotel Association of Cancún. “First, we have to develop economically and industrially in order to have these” — he paused — “these privileges.”

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A brash lawyer says: ‘This is the moment’

The five-day battle’s most seen champion is Susana Prieto, a raspy-voiced labor lawyer who as soon as labored in an meeting plant in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the maquiladora middle throughout from El Paso After she received election to Congress in 2021 with the governing Morena celebration, she found there had been prior efforts to legislate a five-day workweek. Seventeen of them, to be exact.

“I said, ‘I think this is the moment,’” Prieto recalled.

Morena had a majority in Congress and managed greater than half of state legislatures — essential for amending the structure. And celebration founder Andrés Manuel López Obrador had emerged as Mexico’s most pro-labor president in many years.

Since taking workplace in 2018, he has tripled the minimal wage, to the equal of round $1.80 an hour. He has doubled mandated trip time, to 12 days a 12 months. He has outlawed the abusive “subcontracting” of full-time staff.

And Latin America was starting to vary. Traditionally, “our model of development has been based on low salaries and raw materials,” mentioned Juan Carlos Moreno Brid, an economist on the National Autonomous University of Mexico. But Colombia and Chile, each led by leftists, handed legal guidelines this 12 months to shorten the workweek.

In April, Prieto’s invoice was authorised by the House Committee on constitutional Issues.

“The business owners had a heart attack,” she mentioned.

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Mexican unions develop into an actual factor

The push for change hasn’t come solely from above. Unions have develop into extra unbiased, partly because of the revamped North American free-trade settlement that took impact in 2020. In the negotiations, Mexico agreed to reform its system of weak, business-controlled unions. Now, staff have the precise to decide on their labor leaders by secret poll.

That has empowered folks equivalent to Mario Machuca, the Cancún-based regional consultant for the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants. The union has spearheaded protests in favor of the five-day workweek.

“Today, those of us who are [union] leaders can raise our voices in favor of the workers,” he mentioned. “Because we really are their legitimate representatives.”

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The labor reforms are getting a further increase from a brand new era of Mexicans who’re extra related to the world — and one another — by the web, migration and tourism.

Alejandra Chang, 32, grew up watching her father work six days every week as a waiter. Now she does the identical at a Cancún resort, Seadust. Between work and her commute — not less than an hour every means — she has little private time. She is set to vary that.

Another day without work every week “would change my life,” she mentioned. “I’d see my family.”

José Rubén Cob, 33, a cook dinner on the Hyatt Ziva resort, has little doubt what’s driving the employee mobilization. He holds up his iPhone. “It’s because of this,” he mentioned. Workers are utilizing Facebook and WhatsApp to arrange demonstrations. “Now, if we share something here in Cancún, you can find out about it all over the country.”

Mexicans work lengthy hours, however productiveness lags

Mexico is among the many hardest-working of the main industrialized international locations, in keeping with information from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. The common employee clocks 2,226 hours a 12 months — 415 greater than within the United States, and 540 greater than in Canada.

But Mexico has lagged woefully in productiveness: GDP per employee grew simply 0.1 % a 12 months from 1991 to 2020, in keeping with the World Bank. Growth throughout the OECD, a bunch of principally rich North American and European international locations, averaged 1.1 % throughout that interval. And round half the workforce nonetheless labors within the casual sector, with little entry to authorized protections or advantages. Economists warn that the casual sector might develop as employers attempt to dodge new wage and schedule reforms.

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In Cancún, a high overseas vacation spot for American vacationers, employers fear they should rent extra staff to fill shifts, after which move on the prices to shoppers. Angélica Frías, the state consultant of Coparmex, the nationwide enterprise homeowners’ affiliation, has two phrases for the pro-labor of us: Punta Cana.

The Dominican resort “will take away the tourists,” she mentioned. “It will be cheaper to go to other destinations.”

Frías, head of a consulting agency, prides herself on operating a contemporary firm. She wears a banana-yellow blazer and denims. On the wall is a big stencil of Steve Jobs. But even she has been shocked by the flurry of labor reforms snaking by means of Congress.

There’s a transfer to offer new dads a paid, month-long paternity depart. A “chair law” mandates seats and relaxation breaks for workers who work on their ft. It will not be fully coincidental, she mentioned, that the presidential elections in June is looming.

Prieto factors to research that present that lowering the workweek may end up in better-rested, more-productive staff. But López Obrador, dealing with blowback from employers, not too long ago urged Congress to carry a brand new spherical of negotiations on the change.

The delay hasn’t discouraged the employees in Cancún, who’re ready to march once more.

“This is something we need,” mentioned Chang, the Seadust employee. “Two days off.”

Lorena Rios and Gabriela Martínez in Mexico City contributed to this report.