Disgrace for Mexico’s Supreme Court as three out of five of its members vote to overturn an appellate court judgement to reemploy over 16,000 electrician workers of the SME union, sacked en-masse in 2009.
In a callous move to crush Mexico’s oldest democratic union, SME, the previous president Felipe Calderón used an executive order to shut down the utility company Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC) in the night of 10 October 2009, sacking the entire 44’000 workforce. The Electrical Workers’ Union has fought for those workers’ jobs back since. There remain 16,599 LyFC workers, members of SME, in resistance, who refuse to give up their struggle for reinstatement. Their integrity and dignity have gained them wide public support in Mexico and internationally.
The latest 30 January ruling of the Supreme Court comes as a severe blow to SME dashing the high hopes of SME members who believed they would finally get their jobs back. This was a key moment in their struggle, reached after more than 3 years of mobilizing and using all available legal procedures, including for example through NAFTA. The long legal process included victories where the SME members were found to have been unfairly dismissed and that the responsibility for their reinstatement had passed to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) as their substitute employer.
The Calderón government rolled LyFC’s day to day operations into the CFE, the country’s largest utility, subcontracting the work to unskilled workers thus putting many workers lives in dangers. Record levels of accidents have been recorded since.
On 30 January in Mexico DF, the second chamber of the Supreme Court overturned the appellate court decision stating that the employer responsibility for the LyFC workers did not lie with the Mexican President as the utility was “decentralized”. That unjust interpretation in turn means that there is no obligation to reemploy the dismissed workers at the CFE.
IndustriALL Global Union’s General Secretary Jyrki Raina had joined those sending a third-party legal opinion, "amicus curiae", to the ministers of the court in support of the SME workers.
SME General Secretary Martín Esparza declared the union’s firm conviction to continue the campaign for a fair settlement and to call on International Courts (including the Inter-American Court for Human Rights in Washington) to demand a solution for the union members. The electricians are marching on 31 January, from the Angel of Independence monument to the large public square, the Zocalo in the capital Mexico DF.
Trade unions in Mexico and internationally had hoped that the 1 December 2012 change in the country’s president could halt the union-busting by Mexico’s neoliberal establishment. Hope is fading fast already in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s willingness to slow the injustice or stand in the way of business interests and unencumbered markets.
SME will continue fighting for a settlement despite this disappointing setback, and their demands will be taken up by IndustriALL affiliates during the upcoming Mexico Days of Action 18-24 February.