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Mexico should act to end undemocratic unions says ILO

18 June, 2015Mexico should change legislation to stop the registration of ‘protection’ unions that do not represent the majority of workers, says the International Labour Organization (ILO). 

Mexico was one of 24 countries shortlisted for examination by the ILO Committee on Application of Standards in Geneva early this month, for its failure to implement ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize.

The Conclusions, adopted by the ILO Governing Body and the Committee on Application of Standards asked the Mexican government to:

  • identify, in consultation with the social partners, additional legislative reforms to the 2012 Labour Law necessary to comply with Convention No. 87. This should include reforms to prevent the registration of trade unions that cannot demonstrate the support of the majority of the workers they intend to represent, by means of a democratic election process - so-called protection unions;
  • provide a report on progress made to comply with these recommendations by the next session of the Committee of Experts (November 2015)

The Committee requested the Mexican government to fulfil without delay its obligation to publish the registration and bylaws of trade unions on the local boards of the country’s 31 states, and to accept ILO Technical Assistance to address the issues referred to in these recommendations.

Government and employer members from Mexico at the ILO meeting tried to put emphasis on progress achieved in relation to the country’s new Labour Law and alleged transparency of the collective bargaining agreements. However, IndustriALL Global Union and worker members strongly denounced the daily and institutional violations to workers’ rights by the local & federal labour courts, also indicating that unfortunately “the criminal and corrupt system of labour relations known as Protection Contracts continues to grow in all sectors.”

Examples of severe violations to the right of freedom of association were mentioned in relation to IndustriALL’s Mexican mining affiliate, Los Mineros, and their fight for democratic union elections at the Finnish autoparts multinational PKC in Ciudad Acuña, at the Gunderson railcar plant in Monclova, and at CB&I, a steel piping manufacturer in Matamoros, as well as the systematic criminalization of workers who are sacked and then brought to court by the companies, as in the case of Sandak/Bata,  STRACC workers and STUHM at Honda-Jalisco.  

Worker representative, Katja Lehto-Komulainen, from Finnish trade union confederation, SAK, spoke up on the situation in Ciudad Acuña in Arneses and Accesorios de Mexico (PKC case), stating that in Mexico, national legislation is used as an excuse to undermine ILO core standards. She called on the government to fulfil its obligations in relation to Convention 87.

The case of farmworkers in San Quintin fighting against protection contracts to overcome slave-like conditions of work and child labour was highlighted. The export of fruit and vegetables from Mexico to the US has tripled to US$ 7.6 billion in the last decade under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which continues to increase benefits to employers to the detriment of workers' most basic rights. 

Notably, the US government member supported IndustriALL’s position, explicitly demanding that the government of Mexico take serious measures to redress the structure of the local Labour Boards to provide for adequate workers' representation and to address the continued presence of protection unions. 

“The ILO Recommendations represent a positive step forward but we will continue to pressure the government of Mexico to respect workers' rights to Freedom of Association and to decent jobs for our affiliates and all Mexican workers,” said Fernando Lopes, assistant general secretary at IndustriALL.