SANTIAGO – Since March 2019, a bill to reduce work hours from 45 to 40 per week has been pending. But it faces opposition. The main detractor is the Piñera administration, which has presented a competing bill to reduce the hours to 41.
40 vs. 41?
The 40-hour bill was presented by Communist deputy, Camila Vallejo, but various detractors, chief among them, the Piñera administration, argue this bill could hurt the economy by increasing unemployment and decreasing productivity due to its “rigidity.”
President Sebastián Piñera himself referred to the initiative as “unconstitutional” and asked Congress not to support it. Among the reasons he gave is the public expenditure that this reduction of hours would generate. In a conversation with Emol TV, he added, “A parliamentarian cannot generate public expenditure because then nobody would take care of the balances.”
His administration has now sent a parallel bill, through the Minister of Labor, Nicolás Monckeberg, which purportedly seeks to “adapt the workday to [the] personal reality” of each worker and to reduce work hours to 41 per week.
In a press conference, Mockenberg said that “we are able to move forward and reduce the work day in our country,” but that it must be “done well” and “done in a responsible manner.”
The big difference between these initiatives is that the one presented by Vallejo simply seeks to reduce weekly work hours from the current 45 to 40, to be more in line with the OECD countries; whereas the one presented by the government seeks to modify the Labor Code to allow companies of various sectors or without a level of unionization to be able to distribute weekly work time over 4, 5, or 6 days, as detailed by BioBioChile.
Added to the mix is a new Public Square Survey by Cadem. According to the survey, 70% of the Chilean respondents surveyed said said they agreed with the Vallejo bill to reduce weekly work hours from 45 to 40.
When Vallejo’s 40-hour bill was compared to the administration’s 41-hour bill, however, only 28% preferred the Vallejo bill, while 63% preferred the 41-hour bill with its proposed flexibility and related company obligations. In addition, 65% of respondents said they believed that the workday reduction should be implemented gradually.
Nelson Quiroz is Chile Today´s photographer. He also writes about youth culture and fashion, and often contributes with photo series during marches and protests.