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Bata assaults independent union in Mexico

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5 September, 2012IndustriALL Global Union has intervened in support of workers at the Bata footwear plant in Mexico who are finding themselves on the sharp end of the collusion between the company and labour authorities.

Calzado Sandak, a Bata plant in Tlaxcala in the east of Mexico, closed illegally last July without giving workers advance notice of the closure, without consulting the union representing workers at the plant and without seeking prior authorization from the authorities as required by law.

In protest, the independent union at the plant, the Sindicato de Único de Trabajadores de Calzado Sandak,  which is linked to the Authentic Labour Front, declared a strike.  Workers have been picketing outside the factory for over a year to prevent the removal of machinery and to demand the re-opening of the plant.

On 20 August, after a federal court deemed the strike ‘non existent’, a company representative entered the factory with a team of security guards and broke the seals placed by the local authorities. When workers approached, the security guards physically lashed out at them, pushing and hitting the workers. Two women workers ended up in hospital in need of medical attention.

The company claimed the closure was due to insufficient orders, but its actions tell a different story. After closing the factory and throwing its workforce out on the street, the company then sought to outsource the work to the dismissed employees in their own homes or in small workshops, where underage workers have been found to be working twelve hours a day for the minimum wage.

Not surprisingly, the company chose to ignore the law, which would have required it to obtain prior approval from the labour authorities based on an examination of the company’s performance and an assessment of whether the closure was justified.

Mexico is notorious for its legally-sanctioned union-busting, and this case is no exception. The local authority has done nothing to uphold the rights of the workers and their union or to overturn the company’s illegal action.

IndustriALL Global Union has written to Bata threatening to lodge a submission with the OECD for violation of its Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The global union has demanded that the company re-open and that it engage in prior negotiations with the union and comply with legal requirements in the event of any future restructuring. IndustriALL has also written to the Mexican authorities demanding that the law be upheld and that the safety of the workers be protected.