On Sunday 24 June 2012, approximately 300 workers voted to form the Independent Union of Flex-n-Gate Auto Parts Workers (Sindicato Independiente de los Trabajadores de la Industria de Autopartes de Flex–N–Gate, SITIAFNG). The assembly approved the name and statutes of the union and elected an executive committee.
Union members believe this was a historic moment in the Puebla auto industry. They explained that their democratic union was formed in a context of low wages, repression and harassment.
Workers denounced violations of labour rights at Flex-N-Gate (FNG) more than six months ago. The North American transnational’s Puebla factory supplies Volkswagen’s Mexico plant and other auto companies, including Chrysler, Nissan, Ford and General Motors. Since FNG began operations in Puebla, none of the 700 workers at the plant had ever seen a copy of the collective agreement between the company and the protection union, CTM.
On Wednesday, 22 June 2012, 500 workers went on a 12 hour strike and demonstrated outside the Puebla plant against the abuses experienced every day in the plant and against unfair dismissals. Independent unions, including the Volkswagen union in Puebla (SITIAVW), the telephonists’ union affiliated to the National Union of Workers (Union Nacional de Trabajadores, UNT), los Mineros and the United Auto Workers of the United States (UAW) provided practical support for workers involved in the stoppage and showed their solidarity by participating in the demonstration outside Flex N Gate.
In response to this 12 hour strike, the company opened negotiations. The workers asked for the reinstatement of four dismissed workers, a review of the collective agreement and recognition of its right to form an independent union. The company agreed to respect freedom of association, not intervene in moves to form a new union, not dismiss workers involved in forming a new union and avoid any interference in workers’ rights.
SITIAFNG will now ask the state labour authorities to organize a vote at which workers will have to confirm their wish to join the new union before going on to negotiate a collective agreement. The new union statute does not include an exclusion clause, an instrument used by protection unions to get rid of dissident workers. On the contrary, the new union has promised to arrange representation for all areas and departments of the plant and ensure that all workers know what is in the collective agreement and trade union statutes.
IndustriALL Global Union has welcomed and recognized the new democratic union and will be closely following developments.