Banquet in Sight: Every Friday Off

Before leaving to enjoy their long and well-deserved vacations, some legislators are pushing a pilot plan to reduce the workday in government agencies -and later in private enterprise- to 32 hours per week, with the same salary and benefits.

Have we gone loques? (Every day I like this inclusive thing more and more, I'm exploring the possibility of incorporating it in all my columns).

If by any chance in that rickety work week there was a holiday, which happens frequently, we would work three days, and to simplify things, we would leave it at two.

In an unproductive country, where dependence is increasing, the nonsense of reducing the working week -first among public workers, and then forcing it on private companies- is one of the most demagogic and absurd measures that have ever come out of the legislative shell.

Workers on the premises of the Department of Labor and Human Resources in Hato Rey. (Carlos Giusti/Staff)

What do the proponents say? Ah, that in the United States it is already being tested. They have such a "coconut" with the metropolis, that one wonders how they can defend sovereign postulates, or rupture with the northern nation when they do nothing more than admire and copy what is done there.

In the hearings that have been held these days (note how they waste their time), one of the "genias" who is promoting the project affirms that this does not imply greater expenses for the private enterprise or for the government. What do you mean, it does not imply greater expenses? If the employer has to open five days, because four days are not economically profitable, he will have to hire more personnel for that day that is left hanging. I do not understand the arithmetic of these legislators. They pull it out of their sleeves to deceive the unwary.

I don't know where in the United States they work 32 hours, with the same pay and benefits as if they were working 40 hours. Miners, because of the harsh conditions they face, are known to have short hours and retire very early in life. Air traffic controllers, I believe, also. But in government offices, in pharmacies, in banks, four working days and three days off?

While other countries in the world, which are not wealthy and industrialized, but precisely Latin American republics that are trying to get afloat, instill the discipline and morality of work as part of citizen progress, in the bankrupt island, which for the time being lives on federal allocations, they want to implement a 32-hour week with the same salary, the same vacations, Christmas bonus, and menstruation leave for "menstruating people".

According to what the author of the measure proposes, there would be two pilot plans to test how this day works, which she is sure will work very well, but nevertheless, it must be verified with metrics and all the paraphernalia, layer of bureaucracy upon layer of bureaucracy. One pilot plan would be designed for private enterprise, and the other to be implemented by the government. They have gone so far as to claim that this would help combat climate change since there would be fewer cars on the road. No? Wait a minute: and how do they think people are going to move to the beach, to the shopping malls, to the early morning chinchorreo on Friday morning when they are not going to work?

In short, the representative of the Office of Human Resources Management and Transformation has said that the pilot plan "is not consistent with the current legal system," and the head of the Department of Labor has argued that the measure may have a fiscal impact.

What do they care about that? It would be the last straw if, besides presenting such urgent measures, they had to worry about the fiscal impact. The fiscal impact should be dealt with by the Fiscal Control Board, which is what they are there for, and, ultimately, by Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who presides over the court where the terms of the country's bankruptcy are being determined.

The UTIER, as well as the Teachers Association, and a man who attended the hearings as a representative of the Office of the Women's Advocate (is he new?) have also spoken vehemently in favor of the 32-hour workweek. Also, the founder of Ayuda Legal de Puerto Rico, said that "they have already experienced this process" of shortening the work week "without affecting services". The organization One Fare Wage (whatever that is), positioned itself in favor of a labor reduction that is "fair and necessary". That one was stolen from the priest.

In any case, should it pass both houses, but the governor commits the audacity of not wanting to sign it, knowing that the proponents will be redeemed by Artificial Intelligence. Oh, yes, it seems far off and unlikely, but in reality, it is a phenomenon that is just around the corner, and it will be those super-efficient and gifted programs that will decide who works, how much they work, and how they get paid.

The robots may declare 24-hour work weeks, they will be able to do it all, and as far as the Legislature is concerned, in order for their lordships to rest their overloaded brains, they should meet for a while two or three times a year. They are paid the same salary, which is out of the question, but at least they do not waste electricity, office equipment, water, much less pollute the environment with their brand new subsidized cars.

I am asking for an appointment at the hearings to expand on this idea. I guarantee wide coverage.

This OpEd was originally published in Spanish in El Nuevo Dia

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