Mexican workers convention ratified A HISTORIC MOMENT FOR UNIONS

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Sacked Goodyear workers fighting to get their jobs back
Sacked Goodyear workers fighting to get their jobs back

IN AN historic moment for Mexico’s trade union movement, the Mexican Senate has unanimously ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 98, which guarantees the right to organise and collective bargaining, says IndustriAll Global Union.

‘This country has a longstanding social debt towards the working class, but from now on things are going to change,’ said senator Napoleón Gómez Urrutia during the congressional session on 20 September 2018. ‘Now that the Convention has been ratified, workers across Mexico will begin rebuilding labour relations in order to win back the rights of workers, ensure freedom of association and allow workers to set up trade unions and conduct genuine collective bargaining,’ he added.

Urrutia is a senator for the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party led by President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He is also president of IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate Los Mineros and co-regional chair of IndustriALL’s Executive Committee.

ILO Convention No. 98 was adopted in Geneva on 1 July 1949, and since 1998, has formed part of the four fundamental employment rights set forth in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

Owing to international pressure, particularly from IndustriALL, the ratification bill signed by the Federal Government entered the Senate on 1 December 2015. However, the Mexican government dragged its feet for three long years, bowing to pressure from those who sought to increase the number of employer protection contracts that are signed by companies behind workers’ backs and further exploit the Mexican workforce.

Over the years, through case no. 2694 filed with the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association and the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards, IndustriALL has repeated its calls for the Mexico government to ratify the ILO conventions and bring an end to employer protection contracts, which violate freedom of association and the right to genuine collective bargaining.

In his statement to the Senate, Urrutia said it would now be possible to get rid of the harmful protection contracts, strengthen labour-related dialogue, improve wages, rebuild the national economy and, above all, ensure that workers were treated fairly and with dignity.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches welcomed the ratification, saying: ‘This is a new chapter in the history of workers in Mexico. ‘We hope it will bring an end to the employer protection contracts, which prevent workers from freely creating trade unions and mean that wages in Mexico are the lowest in Latin America.’

The decision by the Mexican Senate on 20 September to ratify ILO Convention 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining is a major victory for Mexican workers, following a sustained campaign by the national trade union centre UNT, the ITUC and its regional organisation for the Americas TUCA and Global Union Federations, said the ITUC.

Bringing Mexico’s law into line with the Convention will mean that workers will no longer suffer from the decades-long use of so-called ‘protection contracts’ where bogus unions make corrupt agreements with employers on behalf of workers without their knowledge or consent.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary said: ‘The system has been stacked against Mexican workers for many years, and now the rules are changing. ‘We congratulate the Senate on this decision, and look forward to the government following through so that the rights of working people to freely organise unions and engage in collective bargaining are fully respected. ‘This will lift wages, help improve safety and working conditions, and stimulate the economy.’

Mexico is currently rated among the worst countries for workers in Category 5 of the ITUC Global Rights Index and implementing the Convention will allow it to improve its ranking. The only other country in the Americas region which has not ratified the Convention is the USA.

• Mexican workers fired two months ago by Goodyear for setting up a trade union are still fighting to get their jobs back. On 9 July, the multinational tyre manufacturer unfairly dismissed dozens of workers employed at its plant in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, for setting up an independent, free and democratic trade union. Two months later, the workers’ fight for justice continues.

Every week, the workers gather at the factory gates to protest against the company’s actions and to win the support of their fellow workers. They have also urged other employees to set up an independent union so that a genuine collective agreement that is based on the relevant union contract can be implemented within the company.

The former workers recently set out their demands, which included being given their jobs back and ensuring that workers at the plant enjoyed all the benefits provided for in the union contract for the Mexican rubber industry.

Goodyear attempted to avoid implementing the union contract by imposing its own individual contract, bringing in a ‘collective employer protection contract’ that had been signed with the leader of the corrupt and non-independent Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), Tereso Medina.

‘In recent weeks, the workers have filed a petition with the San Luis Potosí State Congress calling for the protection contract to be annulled and for state legislators to stand in solidarity with the workers,’ said the political advisor to the former workers, Francisco Retama.

‘They have also urged federal legislators in both houses of the national Congress to unite behind the workers and to hold a debate on the conduct of Goodyear, which has violated the workers’ labour rights,’ he added.

Mexico’s freshly elected federal authorities have stated that they will ensure that workers can freely elect their representatives, which will result in employer protection contracts being phased out.

IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches said: ‘IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates stand with the Goodyear workers in their fight for justice and have united behind them on numerous occasions. ‘We condemn the behaviour of Goodyear’s management team in San Luis Potosí and the clear lack of respect that has been shown for the workers’ fundamental rights. ‘We will take further steps to support the workers, particularly at the company’s head office in the United States.’