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Democratic trade unions in Mexico can become reality

25 May, 2022Mexico’s labour law reform from 2019 opens the way to true labour relations, the chance to establish new and democratic unions and therefore improves the basis for freedom of association. The new collective agreement signed between the National Independent Trade Union of Automotive Workers of Mexico (SINTTIA) and US car giant General Motors on 10 May is a testament to that - but the road ahead is long.

After 50 days of negotiations, IndustriALL affiliate SINTTIA signed a collective bargaining agreement with GM on 10 May.
The new agreement covers all workers at GM’s Silao plant, providing better working conditions and a substantial improvement in wages and economic benefits.
Among the main achievements:

  • 8.5 per cent direct wage increase
  • Increased quarterly productivity bonus
  • Involving the union in various aspects of working conditions, including promotion, sanctioning, health and safety
  • A table to review working hours, shifts and crews, as well as productivity
  • A table to implement a protocol to deal with violence and sexual harassment

María Alejandra Morales Reynoso, SINTTIA general secretary, says:

"United, we achieved changes in working conditions and we must continue to stand strong in supporting the agreement. We need freedom of association and democracy to improve our quality of life."

Mexico’s new labour law states that workers freely decide which union to join and which leaders that represent them through a secret and direct ballot. Prior to the law reform, workers were de facto not allowed to choose freely as voting was done by a show of hands, in front of employers' unions who would be on the company’s side and not the workers’.
In addition, it was established that collective contracts must be consulted with the workers, both in the initial contract and in the collective bargaining held every two years. It is also done by free, personal and secret ballot, which helps to eliminate the so-called "employer protection contracts".
In April 2021, workers at the GM plant in Silao documented irregularities in the vote to legitimise the collective protection contract signed by the union affiliated to the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and appealed to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The grievance mechanisms worked and therefore, in August 2021, the workers held a new vote where they rejected the old collective agreement signed by a union affiliated to CTM The rejection of the agreement meant that elections had to be held to elect a new union.
In February this year, SINTTIA won a resounding victory in a secret ballot and has since gained union representation at the GM plant.
At the time, IndustriALL general secretary Atle Høie said that it was an incredibly important victory and proof that the labour reform implemented by the Mexican government in 2019 can indeed have a positive effect for workers as it provides them with a real chance to cast their vote in free and fair elections.

And on this month’s union win, Atle Høie says:

“We hope that others will learn from SINTTIA’s successful struggle. IndustriALL and its affiliates in the region are ready to support similar initiatives. There are still more than 80,000 existing collective agreements that need to be legitimized until May 2023.“