Ten years ago, three legal strikes broke out on health and safety issues in Grupo Mexico mines. The fight still continues against a company that is incapable of acknowledging its responsibility for tragedies caused by its negligence.
The length of strikes at Cananea in Sonora, Taxco in Guerrero and Sombrerete in Zacatecas shows the resistance and perseverance of the miners’ union, Los Mineros, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, in its defence of workers' rights.
On 30 July 2007, union members took action at three mines run by Grupo Mexico after repeated health and safety problems. One of the worst incidents was the industrial homicide at Pasta de Conchos on 19 February 2006, which caused the death of 65 workers and injuries to another 29 ().
The company and the government did not properly investigate the real causes of the disaster, bring the guilty parties to justice, recover the bodies or compensate fairly the families of the victims.
Moreover, Grupo Mexico owner, German Larrea, refused to take measures to improve safety at the mine or to comply with labour ministry orders. As expected, further accidents occurred. One of the most recent was on 6 August 2014, when a spillage of toxic material into the River Sonora damaged the environment and seriously affected the health of local communities.
The striking workers are also protesting against the company’s refusal to recognize the union and repeated violations of the three collective agreements. The workers have also denounced Grupo Mexico’s government-backed attacks on the union.
For example, in Sombrerete, the company tried to refer the matter of responsibility for the strike to arbitration and has even questioned, on several occasions, the union’s collective bargaining rights at the mine, although it failed in these attempts.
At the strike in Taxco, the company twice sought to terminate the collective agreement during the strike but failed on both occasions. It did the same at Cananea, where it requested termination of the collective agreement in the middle of the strike on the grounds of force majeure.
In none of the three cases did the company seek to resolve the strikes through conciliation procedures. However, Los Mineros are still ready to seek a negotiated solution to put an end to the strikes:
“Once again, ten years after these disputes began, we denounce the company for its lack of principles and values and demand that it meets our demands and seeks a negotiated solution,”
said the union in an official communique.
The United Steelworkers (USW), also affiliated to IndustriALL in the United Sates, expressed its total support for Los Mineros:
“The USW has stood with our Mexican sisters and brothers for the past decade, working together to build cross-border solidarity in defence of workers' rights and in support of local communities. We will continue this solidarity until justice is won”.
Finally, Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL Global Union director, said:
“After ten years, the strikes have solid support and the workers remain united behind their union. IndustriALL supports the struggles led by Los Mineros and calls on the government to take practical steps to find a solution to these disputes”.