In Mexico, a union leader was taken into custody last week and a further eight workers threatened with detention in an attempt by authorities to end workers' two-and-a-half year struggle to stop footwear giant Bata outsourcing to home workers.
Epifanio García Carrillo, an executive committe member of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de Calzado Sandak, was taken into custody on 20 January. The independent union represents workers at Bata's subsidiary in Tlaxcala, where members have been blockading the Calzado Sandak plant since August 2012. Unionists want to prevent the company from removing machinery and illegally shifting production from the unionized plant to unregulated home-based workshops.
As if it wasn’t already hard enough for workers to stand up for their rights in a country known for its rampant violation of freedom of association and its perverted ‘protection contracts’, it seems that the authorities and the government are getting the courts on side to make the situation even harder. This latest move sends a chilling message to workers: ‘if you occupy your factory, albeit legally, we will have you arrested’.
IndustriALL Global Union continues to lend its support.
UPDATE: After eight days in detention, Epifanio García Carrillo was released on 28 January. All charges against him have been dropped.
More than 90 per cent of registered trade union agreements in Mexico are protection contracts. These are bogus collective agreements signed between employers and employer-dominated company unions for the purpose of blocking democratic representation of workers and collective bargaining.
Protection contracts keep pay and benefits low, restrict workers’ rights and ensure labour relations that are advantageous to the company.