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Unions debate way forward on rights in Mexico

13 June, 2012Panel discussion on Protection Contracts and Freedom of Association in Mexico packs a full house at the International Labour Organization. Union representatives call for union building, solidarity, and direct action against the government and employers.

GENEVA: It was a full house in room IV of the International Labour Organization, where representatives from the international labour movement and independent union movement in Mexico discussed Protection Contracts and barriers to Freedom of Association in Mexico. Panelists and discussion participants also identified ways in which unions can act and move forward.

The panel discussion was hosted by the International Trade Union Confederation and Global Union Federations, with Steve Benedict, the ITUC's Director for Human and Trade Union Rights, opening the event.


It is estimated and widely accepted in Mexico that nearly 90 per cent of all collective bargaining agreements are protection contracts. "This is a serious crisis for Freedom of Association, a crisis for our workers, our unions and in some cases even the employers are rejecting this system," said Christy Hoffman, deputy general secretary of UNI Global Union, who co-chaired the event.

Specific cases where workers have been denied the right to join a union, and in some cases faced brutal retaliation were presented by Hector Barba Garcia from UNT, Genaro Trejo Arteaga and Oscar Alzaga from Los Mineros (SNTMMSRM). Panellists denounced the overt complicity between Mexican authorities and transnational companies such as Wal-Mart, JCI, Atento, PKC, Excellon, and Grupo Mexico to deprive workers of their right to Freedom of Association.

"This is a call to action," said Liz Shuler, AFLCIO Secretary Treasurer speaking about cross-border strategies to combat the criminalization of social and union struggle in Mexico. "We need to build our capacity to better deliver solidarity and build our union networks around the world to take on this fight."

A plan for moving forward was outlined by the International Metalworkers' Federation's Assistant General Secretary, Fernando Lopes, who identified five major areas for focus and action:

  • Work with the ITUC, GUFs and the ILO to push the government to adhere to ILO international standards and implement recommendations made by the Committee on Freedom of Association regarding protection contracts (case no. 2694).
  • Support global and regional campaigns and networks fighting for Freedom of Association in Mexico, such as the ITUC (global) and the TriNational Solidarity Alliance-GUFs, US, Canada and Mexico (regional).
  • Participate in and grow mobilizations in support of February Global Days of Action on Mexico. A week of events held annually around February 19 around the world.
  • Hold multinationals accountable to their role and profit in having protection contracts. Identify multinationals who have made commitments to adhere to international labour standards, such as Global Framework Agreements, OECD guidelines and members of the Global Compact to urge companies to abandon the protection contract system.
  • Make union building a priority so independent unions have the capacity to represent workers who are breaking out of the protection contract system.

For more information about the program, see flyer here.