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New Government proposal on reduction of working hours

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The Secretary of State for Employment, Joaquín Pérez Rey, presented a new proposal to reach an agreement on the reduction of working hours that includes CEOE and Cepyme, in which he offers them greater flexibility in the capacity of companies to distribute working time irregularly once the reduction proposed by the Government of 37.5 hours per week in 2025 comes into force.

After meeting with social agents in a new meeting of the social dialogue table on the reduction of working hours, Pérez Rey has specified in a press conference that companies can currently distribute irregularly up to 10% of the annual working hours.

What the Ministry of Labour is now proposing is that this 10% should refer to the working hours that companies had when the law came into force and not to the new reduced working hours.

“This provides a greater margin for irregular working days, which we believe can be useful for companies to move as soon as possible to the new 37-and-a-half-hour module,” Pérez Rey pointed out.

The Secretary of State explained that it is a proposal that basically offers “some more margins for the irregular distribution of the working day”, which can benefit, for example, those sectors with inconsistent production cycles throughout the year, such as agriculture or some activities related to hospitality, where there is a greater workload in summer or at the time when the fruits have to be harvested.

“This greater capacity for irregular distribution during the period in which we estimate that we will apply the reduction in working hours will allow for greater adaptation to these productive sectors,” said Pérez Rey, who made it clear that the Ministry of Labour’s aim is to reach an agreement “with all the parties that are sitting at the table,” including CEOE and Cepyme.

Pérez Rey stressed that the roundtable “has made progress” today and that the employers’ associations have offered greater specificity in their proposals, which basically involve ensuring that the flexibility measures are not purely temporary and achieving a greater transitional margin for adaptation to the 37.5 hours.

“In both elements we will have to study what are these possibilities of greater flexibility in the use of working time and what are these possibilities of greater flexibility in the entry into force of the regulations that reduce the working day, but it must be clear that we are negotiating to reach an agreement and that it is the agreement that encourages us to carry out the study of all these measures and it is the agreement that would justify us taking into account measures such as those that the employers’ association is demanding,” insisted the Secretary of State.

In his opinion, the new proposal from the Ministry has been “well-regarded” as a whole, although the four organisations present at the table (CCOO, UGT, CEOE and Cepyme) have asked for time to analyse it in depth.

The Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE), the employers’ association of Spanish companies, which includes the representative associations of SMEs (Cepyme) and self-employed workers (ATA), later held its 2024 General Assembly in Madrid.

At the end of the meeting, its president, Antonio Garamendi, gave his speech, in which he was very harsh with the Government and with the proposal to reduce the working day to 37.5 hours in 2025. According to him, if approved, “it would be equivalent to giving each employee, by decree, 12 days of paid vacation.”

This, he said, would be just one more of the successive increases in labour costs that self-employed workers with employees and small businesses have had to assume in recent years, such as the increases in the Minimum Interprofessional Salary (SMI) or the Intergenerational Equity Mechanism (MEI) in social contributions, which for the most part have to be assumed by companies.

The CEOE president therefore urged the Ministry of Labour to really allow unions and employers to negotiate the terms of this reduction in working hours. “We are tired,” he said, “of both parties being told what the outcome of collective bargaining should be.”

Aggravating factor in sanctions

Pérez Rey also explained that the Ministry of Labour has incorporated into its new proposal an aggravating factor for those offences related to working hours that may cause harm to the health of workers.

“The problem with working hours is not just about gaining well-being, it is that excessive working hours, disproportionate working hours, working from dawn to dusk kills, and we see this when there are adverse weather conditions, but we also see it when it produces exhaustion derived from excessive working hours in areas such as transport. Therefore, we have also proposed this aggravating factor in terms of sanctions when excessive working hours that violate the law directly put the working people of our country at risk,” he explained.

Asked whether this aggravating factor will imply an increase in the sanctions initially proposed in this negotiation (up to 10,000 euro per worker with whom the company fails to comply with the law), Pérez Rey has indicated that it is not so much a question of the amount, but rather that the sanction will be considered from serious to very serious .

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