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2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mexico

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mexico, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec66c.html [accessed 30 August 2014]
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: 109,600,000
Capital: Mexico City
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

The government continues to pursue overtly anti-union policies. The mining, metal and electricity sectors were the worst affected. Four members of the national miners' and metalworkers' union, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM), lost their lives at the hands of police brutality. A leader of the Puerto de Veracruz commercial and maritime workers' union, Sindicato de Maniobristas, Carretilleros, Cargadores, Abridores, Conexos de la Zona Marítima y del Comercio de la Ciudad y Puerto de Veracruz, was murdered and the head of the workers' and campesino union, Unión General Obrera, Campesina y Popular (UGOCP), and his family were slaughtered. The law provides little scope for the exercise of free trade unionism and public workers' trade union rights are extremely limited.

Trade union rights in law

Despite some initial guarantees, there are many restrictions on trade union rights in the law. While workers may join and form trade unions, to obtain legal status the unions must be listed in the Register of Associations. 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. In the public sector, the law imposes a trade union monopoly on state employees, as all workers are obliged to join unions affiliated to the public service union, the FSTSE. There is also a trade union monopoly in the banking sector, where bank workers may only belong to the National Federation of Banking Unions. State employees are not allowed to leave their union either, and they lose their job if they do.

Furthermore, while the right to strike is recognised in the Constitution, public service employees may only call a strike in the event of general and systematic violations of their rights. They must also have the support of two thirds of the workers in the public body concerned. In addition, the law enables the government to requisition workers in a national emergency, including when it is caused by an industrial dispute. The National Banking Commission determines the extent of the minimum service in the banking sector without any union involvement.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2009

Background: Mexico's political climate in 2009 was marked by three key issues: the economic crisis, the deteriorating security situation in the country and the split of the Mexican left. The economic, political and social outlook in Mexico is worsening by the day, with the destabilisation of inflation control variables provoked by rising prices. The Mexican economy is facing the most intense and abrupt adjustment in the last 15 years, with activity slowing during the first half of 2009. The country continues to be plagued by the violence linked to the operations of drug trafficking gangs.

Protection contracts: "Employer protection contracts" continue to exist. They have been described by the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) as the "most grotesque product of the Mexican labour model". These "protection contracts", that is, bogus collective agreements drawn up by the employers and negotiated behind the workers' backs, then filed with the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board, constitute a violation of trade union rights, as they prevent any real collective bargaining and the possibility of exercising the right to strike. The five sectors where these types of contracts are most common are the auto industry, supermarket chains, cleaning services, low cost airlines and the maquilas.

Trade union leader murdered: On 18 July, Jorge Luis Andrade Morales, Secretary of the Puerto de Veracruz commercial and dock workers' union, Sindicato de Maniobristas, Carretilleros, Cargadores, Abridores, Conexos de la Zona Marítima y del Comercio de la Ciudad y Puerto de Veracruz, was murdered after having given a press conference on 8 July in which he denounced the federal government's violations of human and labour rights through the Department of Labour and Social Security.

Arbitrary measures and use of force: On 10 October, armed troops and federal police officers dislodged and occupied the installations of the public utility company Compañía de Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LFC), which provides electricity to the central part of the country. A Presidential Decree was passed to close the company and lay off its 44,000 employees, thus disbanding the trade union and obliterating the gains secured by the workers. The government's main argument was that the company had become too costly because of the workers' high wages. The Mexican electricians' union, Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), filed a complaint against the Mexican government, arguing that the decree to close the company constitutes a violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

Miners' unions face continued harassment: On 25 November, a convoy of 10 buses taking 400 trade unionists and sympathisers to a peaceful demonstration in the city of Zacatecas was stopped and held by the police. They intimidated the passengers, threatening to beat them if they left the buses. The protest was being held to call for justice following the murder of miner Juventino Flores Salas in June, and to show support for Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the exiled leader of the national miners' and metalworkers' union, SNTMMSRM. Although the workers were finally allowed to enter the city, the police did not leave their side and would not allow them to join the demonstration.

Illegal detention: Juan Linares Montúfar, president of the General Vigilance and Justice Council of the national miners' and metalworkers' union, SNTMMSRM, is still being held at the Reclusorio Norte prison in Mexico City. He was arrested at the beginning of December 2008, and in spite of judicial rulings clearing him of any charges regarding the creation, modification and closing of the miners' trust fund, he has not been released on bail.

Strike at Cananea mine continued in 2009: The government's overtly anti-union policies directly affected the national miners' and metalworkers' union, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM). The strike initiated in 2008 at the Cananea mine, owned by the largest mining company in the country, Grupo México, continued throughout 2009. The employer, backed by the Mexican government, has been trying, without success, to break the strike and destroy the union. The Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board declared the strike illegal on three occasions. Each time, the union filed an appeal with the Federal Labour Court, which overturned the decision. During the year, state security forces and thugs on the employer's payroll attacked the striking workers, killing four SNTMMSRM members.

In June, as part of an international campaign to improve labour rights in Mexico, a delegation of parliamentarians and trade union leaders from 13 countries, including the general secretaries of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) and the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), joined with Mexican members of parliament and trade union leaders from the national workers' union UMT and the electricians' union SME, to call on the government to stop the persecution of the SNTMMSRM and its leader, Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, who has been forced to take exile in Canada. The Canadian government has refused to extradite him.

Trade unionist and family slain: On 31 October, an armed commando shot to death the national leader of the workers' and campesino union, Unión General Obrera, Campesina y Popular (UGOCP), Margarito Montes Parra, and 14 other people, including his wife Gabriela Orozco, his son Luis and his daughter Azalea. The hired assassins blocked their way and sprayed the group with bullets, using high calibre weapons. Margarito Montes Parra had founded the UGOCP in the mid-seventies. From its very beginnings, the organisation confronted the landowners and plantation owners who held huge stretches of land in the Cuenca del Papaloapan region.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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