12 July, 2022Workers at Saint-Gobain in Mexico have voted against the current collective bargaining agreement, stating that it had been negotiated by an employer-friendly union that made decisions behind the workers’ backs and in the interests of the company.
A total of 1,539 workers at the Saint-Gobain glass factory in Cuautla, Morelos, voted in the direct, free and secret ballot on 5 and 6 July. According to the Federal Centre for Conciliation and Labour Registration, 700 workers voted in favour of the existing agreement, 814 voted against it and 25 ballots were spoiled.
Joaquín Guzmán, general secretary of the Independent Union of Free and Democratic Workers of Saint-Gobain Mexico, welcomed the outcome. He said that the union would now focus on obtaining the right to represent workers in negotiations for a new collective agreement that would protect the employees and help them to improve working conditions and wages.
"We, the workers, have voted and made history. Through our courage, bravery, drive and determination, we have demonstrated that if we are united and organized we can bring about great change. Thank you to everyone who showed solidarity and trusted in us. We are now going to seek to represent workers in the negotiations for a new collective agreement,"
For a long time, workers had been subject to an employer protection contract signed with a union that was part of the employer-friendly CTC union. This put employees in a unfair situation and created poor working conditions, as the union negotiated behind the employees’ backs and did not represent their interests.
Under Mexico’s recent labour reform, all workers have the right to elect their union leaders and choose which union will represent them in future collective bargaining processes. In addition, all existing employment agreements must be put to a ballot by 1 May 2023.
In the days leading up to the vote, workers told IndustriALL that they had been intimidated and pressured into voting for the agreement. In response, IndustriALL’s general secretary Atle Høie wrote to Régis Blugeon, director of social affairs and human resources at Saint-Gobain Group.
In the letter, he asked Blugeon to ensure that the local management team complied with Mexico’s labour reform and ILO conventions on freedom of association, showed respect for labour-related human rights and the voting process, and allowed for a free and fair ballot to take place.
After hearing the outcome of the vote, Høie said:
"Employer protection contracts are a curse in Mexico and should be abolished. 80,000 contracts are pending approval in the coming year. IndustriALL will support all efforts to ensure that fair collective agreements are negotiated, with workers represented by independent unions, as we have done with Saint- Gobain. We congratulate the workers for their victory in this first step of their struggle."