Last Saturday afternoon, we went to a birthday party of a Dutch friend, who works with the United Nations in Quito. She’s responsible for the protection of refugees and is well connected at an international level.
While we were all standing around, enjoying a cool beer in the presence of several diplomats and influential officials, the topic of conversation soon went in the direction of Ecuador’s current political course, and what should be done at an economic level to get Ecuador back on track: reducing the state expenditures, reforming the legislation regarding employment contracts, attracting foreign capital, expanding the industrial sector and decreasing imports. Basically, all important economic problems were touched on.
The weekend had only just come to an end, and the first reform affecting the floricultural industry was announced: as a result of a partial return of the old legislation, employees will be able to work six days per week again instead of five, as long as this fits in a 40-hour work week.
The current legislation says that every employee is entitled to 48 consecutive hours of rest. Since this was implemented a few years ago, hardly anyone has been working on Saturdays and Sundays in the flower sector. Now that the old legislation is going to be reinstalled, we can go back to working Mondays to Fridays from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. (this includes a 1-hour lunch break), and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 12 p.m. Great news, considering the dynamic nature of our trade.
It still leaves us waiting though, for a reform of the employment contracts. The standard in Ecuador used to be that an employee was given a trial period of three months when he was first hired, and if both parties were happy, that could be extended with one year and after that with another one year. After a maximum of two years, the contract automatically turned into a permanent contract.
But a few years ago, it was decided that those extensions were no longer allowed, which meant that a permanent contract automatically followed onto the 3-month trial period. This didn’t really help anyone. Unemployment is extremely high here. Many young people who studied abroad, are struggling to find a decent job when they return home.
Maybe our friend with the UN should have more than one birthday per year. Who knows what a bit of networking could lead to!
Victor van Dijk