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2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mexico

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 11 June 2009
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2009 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mexico, 11 June 2009, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 106,790,000
Capital: Mexico City
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

There are many serious violations of fundamental workers' rights. Strikes and demonstrations by workers have been repressed with unnecessary force by the police. Employers have continued signing protection contracts with yellow unions. The State does not protect workers who try to exercise their rights. Illegal mechanisms are used to destroy unions.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association – registration of unions: No prior authorisation is required to create a trade union. To obtain legal status, however, the unions must be listed in the Register of Associations, an office of the Labour and Social Protection Secretariat. The authorities may decline to "take note" of a request if they consider that the union has breached or does not meet the requirements established in the Federal Labour Law (Ley Federal del Trabajo). That judgement involves an examination of trade union procedures. Although it is possible to appeal against an inspector's report, there is no legal recourse for changing it or requiring that a new inspection be carried out. An unregistered union cannot call a strike or participate in collective agreements and is excluded from all tripartite committees.

Foreigners may not become members of trade union executive bodies.

Despite the ILO's repeated request, the State has still not fulfilled its promise to ratify Convention 98.

Restrictions in the public sector: The law imposes a trade union monopoly on State employees, prohibiting the coexistence of two or more unions in the same State body. Workers are obliged to join unions affiliated to the public service union, the FSTSE (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado). State employees may not leave their union. Public sector trade union officials may not stand for re-election.

The law also imposes a trade union monopoly on bank workers, who may only belong to the National Federation of Banking Unions.

Restrictions on right to strike: Clause XVIII of Article 123 of the Mexican Constitution states that "strikes shall be legal when their purpose is to establish equilibrium between the diverse factors of production, harmonising the rights of labour with those of capital. In the public services workers shall be required to provide ten days' notice to the conciliation and arbitration board (Junta de Conciliación y Arbitraje, JCA), of the proposed date on which work is to be suspended. Strikes shall be regarded as illegal only where the majority of the strikers carry out violent attacks on persons or property, or, in the event of war, where the former belong to government bodies and departments".

Employees in the public service may only call a strike in the event of the general and systematic violation of their rights set out in the Constitution. They must have the support of two thirds of the workers in the public body concerned. The law also enables the government to requisition workers in a national emergency, including when it is caused by an industrial dispute.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Background: Violence has swept across the country. There have been thousands of murders, which many attribute to the drug traffickers. Mexican society is being terrorised by extortion and kidnapping. The country's dependence on the US economy has had a negative impact. Migration is on the increase, while remittances are falling. Poverty remains high and corruption is rife in government circles. The police are involved in the kidnappings and extortion, as are the Ministry of Public Affairs and the judiciary.

Protection contracts: So-called "employer protection contracts" are continuing. They have been described by the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) as the "most grotesque product of the Mexican labour model". These contracts are fake collective agreements drawn up by the employers and negotiated behind the workers' backs, then filed with the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board. This is a means of violating trade union rights by preventing real collective bargaining and of preventing workers from exercising the right to strike.

The five sectors where these types of contracts are most frequent are the car industry, supermarket chains, cleaning services, low cost airlines and maquila companies.

Protesting teachers repressed: Teachers and parents who blocked federal highways in protest at the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE) were violently removed. They objected to this government education plan because they believed it was an attack on their workers' and trade union rights and contravened the Constitution. State and federal security forces carried out arbitrary arrests and were verbally and physically aggressive towards the teachers. In Xoxocotla alone, where the most violent removals took place, 16 people were arrested; in Amayuca there were 49 arrests, and another two in Tres Marías.

Solidarity with workers' struggle: Workers unfairly dismissed by the Suajes y Preparaciones company in Ecatepec, who have been fighting for their reinstatement since 7 June 2007, have received the support of several national and international organisations. Attempts to repress the workers and those dismissed as well as the presence of thugs during the meeting of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board on 28 November 2008, to intimidate the lawyers and workers, have been roundly criticised.

Dismissed for creating an independent trade union: Thirty workers belonging to the independent education workers' union, Sindicato Nacional Independiente de Instituciones Educativas, Similares y Conexos 20 de Noviembre (created in May 2008), were dismissed in August 2008 by the Valle de Mexico University, a private institution and subsidiary of the US based Laureate Education Inc. multinational corporation, in retaliation for seeking registration as an independent trade union.

Violations at a mining company: The country's biggest mining company, Grupo Mexico, and the government tried to destroy the National Union of Mining, Metallurgy and Allied Workers Union of the Republic of Mexico (SNTMMSRM). Attacks on the union included removing the legal recognition of the General Secretary, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and other democratically elected leaders, on the basis of false allegations, and issuing arrest warrants without cause. The government and Grupo Mexico tried to destroy the union and give recognition to a pro-management union. They called elections at which the workers were obliged to join this union.

The International Metalworkers Federation (IMF) has demanded that the Mexican government release all the trade union funds illegitimately seized by the government; that it drop all the charges against the SNRMMSRM leaders; that all those responsible for falsifying documents and events be brought to trial, immediately and transparently; and that the involvement of Grupo Mexico in the murder of Reynaldo Hernández González and the detention and torture of 20 members of the SNTMMSRM in Nacozari, Sonara, be investigated. The IMF has lodged a complaint with the ILO against the government of Mexico, for violations of ILO Convention 87.

Workers kidnapped to force them to resign: Members of the Commercial, Office, Retail, Similar and Allied Workers' Union (STRACC), affiliated to the Authentic Labour Front (FAT), employed at the Abasto Centre public baths in Mexico City, were called to a so-called "information session" outside the city, organised by the management of the contract cleaning company Operadora Empresarial SAFE. At the Abasos Plaza hotel the General Manager called them in one by one, and representatives of the company informed them that they could not return to work because they were being replaced by other workers from that day on. If they did not sign their letters of resignation, they would be forced to leave because criminal charges of alleged theft would be brought against them. After hours under pressure, 14 workers signed their resignation letters. The unfairly dismissed workers were replaced by staff who were not affiliated to STRACC, contrary to the collective agreement signed with the union.

The company continued to put pressure on the rest of the workers to sign their own letters of resignation, transferring them to different workplaces and using verbal abuse on every occasion. One month later, a civil servant from the Mexico City Government Department proceeded to remove all the workers with the help of the police, arresting five members of the FAT and eight other workers for "wrongful use of their rights".

Airline workers oppose yellow unions and protection contracts: Mexican airline workers' unions protested against the employers' practice of signing protection contracts with yellow unions. They reported that of Mexico's 14 airlines only four had democratic trade unions while in the rest there were only yellow unions and protection contracts. The labour authorities recognise the yellow unions, even though the workers did not elect them as their representatives.

Anti-union dismissals by PEMEX: After workers began procedures for the formation of the National Union of Oil Technicians and Professionals (UNTyPP), the Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) company proceeded to dismiss many workers and staff in positions of trust, including all members of the executive board in Mexico City, Poza Rica, Reynosa and Tula among other places, where there were representatives of the newly formed union.

The process of registering the UNTyPP was about to be completed, and they were waiting for a visit the Department of Labour and Social Welfare (STPS) to verify that the union's representatives were still employed at the workplace. The dismissals were clearly aimed at preventing the union's registration.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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