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Right to strike hits home in Mexico

20 February, 2015In Mexico, the day of action on the right to strike on 18 February held a special significance for independent unions.

The government is fond of claiming that Mexico is a country of ‘zero strikes’. In reality, though, this is not the result of meaningful social dialogue. Instead, it is confirmation of the fact that the right to strike does not exist in a void, but is a consequence of the right to freedom of association – a right which in practice does not exist in Mexico.

To mark the day of action, the plenary of the Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT), in a session attended by some 500 participants, heard a message from IndustriALL Global Union and committed to join with other democratic organizations in defence of the right to strike.

The Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) also invited IndustriALL regional officer Laura Carter to address over 800 members in an event to mark the day of action. And independent unions who were gathered in a coordination meeting supported calls for the government to defend the protection of the right to strike at the ILO.

Since the adoption of the Labour Law Reform in 2012, attacks on labour rights have increased. Independent unions and their democratically-elected leaders are routinely denied legal recognition while yellow unions and their corrupt ‘protection contracts’ are foisted on workers. Strikes, if they do occur, are frequently ruled illegal. The most recent example of the erosion of labour rights is the attempt to push through a constitutional reform that would deny the collective rights of thousands of workers employed in decentralized state bodies (namely, the reform of article 123 b).

The independent unions could also be impacted in the event the upcoming review of the application of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 87 and the follow-up to IndustriALL’s complaint to the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association are pushed on the back burner as the result of the disruption to the work of the ILO supervisory bodies caused by the Employers’ Group.

As a participant in the upcoming tripartite meeting on the right to strike and as a member of the ILO’s Governing Body, the government of Mexico will have a voice in the decision on whether to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice for a definitive interpretation, which is the position supported by the international labour movement.