Mexican Workers Defend Union Jobs

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MEMBERS of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) are vowing to fight as long as it takes to defeat the government’s heavy-handed, anti-union moves to break its independent union.

Speaking at a brown-bag luncheon last week at the AFL-CIO in Washington DC, Humberto Montes de Oca, SME’s interior secretary, and union Health Secretary Pipino Cuevas said workers are determined to fight privatisation.

Montes said: ‘We are fighting for the rights of the 44,000 workers.

‘We are using all means to resist the oppression of the Mexican government.

Last October, federal agents and police seized the country’s second largest electrical power distributor, Luz y Fuerza (Central Light and Power).

President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa used an executive decree to dissolve the utility, but, in doing so, he also fired the entire 44,000-person workforce and disbanded their union, the 95-year-old SME, the country’s oldest union and a frequent critic of the government’s policies.

You can help provide material support to the fired workers and their families through a tax-deductible donation to the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center’s Mexican Electrical Workers Relief Fund.

The union says contract workers have been brought in to work at the utility resulting in numerous power outages and unsafe working conditions.

The workers are gaining strong support across North America and around the globe.

During their trip to Washington DC, last week, they have met with officials in the US Department of Labour and congressional staff.

Both the AFL-CIO and the Canadian Labour Congress have called for the Mexican government to end the occupation of the plant and reinstate the workers.

The workers also have filed complaints against the Mexican government with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and under the side agreements of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

‘What is sad’, Montes said, ‘is that the inhumane and repressive tactics of the Mexican government are not unique.

‘As they travel around telling their story, he said, the SME workers have heard similar reports in other countries of efforts to break unions.’

He added: ‘Our action is an action for all workers. We are resolved to go on until we get respect for our workers.

Meanwhile, a campaign to discredit the Mexican miners’ union has been launched in order to discourage workers from joining the union.

Workers at Johnson Controls in Puebla have decided to improve their working conditions and exercise their right to the freedom of association.

They want to join the Mexican Miners’ Union (SNTMMSRM) but leaders of the CROM trade union have begun a campaign to discredit the miners’ union in an attempt to discourage workers from joining it.

Johnson Controls Servicios S de R L de C V is located in Puebla.

It is owned by United States and German capital and produces car parts.

It assembles car seats and seat supports. Most production goes to Volkswagen, Ford, MB, Chrysler and Nissan plants.

According to the Centro de Apoyo al Trabajador A C (CAT), a labour support centre, workers at this company have been fighting for more than two years and learning about human and labour rights, in order to be able to exercise their right to freedom of association.

The workers have formed an organising coalition at the company (COT-JC).

In 2007, some workers participated in the Comisión Revisora del Reparto de Utilidades (Profit Sharing Review Committee) and also demanded a new collective agreement but were dismissed without valid reason in June 2007.

The company and the ‘protection union’ in place have continued to harass workers since then and more workers have been dismissed.

The workforce is currently affiliated to the Confederación Regional Obrera Mexicana – CROM, a ‘protection union’.

This union has formally ‘represented’ workers at the company for more than ten years but the workers say they have not received the support they need to improve their conditions.

Workers who want to leave CROM and join the SNTMMSRM have been the victims of intimidation at the workplace and in their communities and homes in the state of Tlaxcala, where most of the company’s workers live.

CROM representatives have told them, ‘You have the right to join whichever union you want, but beware of the consequences.’

Sergio Beltrán, secretary of the miners’ union, said he was taking the steps necessary for workers at Johnson Controls to join the miners’ union and hoped to be able to talk to company management.

He said it was important for the international union federations, including the IMF, to act as mediators and arrange a meeting with the company.

International representatives of the IMF met COT-JC workers and CAT members several times in 2008 and gave their full support to the workers’ struggle to form a democratic trade union.

The IMF gives its wholehearted support to COT-JC’s wish to join the SNTMMSRM and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

• Last Friday Mexican union, farmer and social organisations asserted that they would perform a huge and combative demonstration against the government economic policy, faced with a rise in prices and low salaries.

National Workers’ Union (UNT) Chairman Francisco Hernandez announced that they expected a ‘large-scale, forceful and combative’ march.

Important avenues in Mexico City saw scenes of mass mobilisation moving from the Independence Column to the Zocalo, to demand a change of direction in the country’s economic policy.

Federal Deputy David Hernandez explained that they were protesting against the rise in prices of basic products, a situation that has created a deep sense of unease in the population.

In the parliamentarian’s opinion, the government must control the prices of those products that are the minimum supply to their survival, and seek productivity plans to guarantee higher incomes to workers.

The population’s demands, faced with the high prices of basic products, are forcing the Executive to establish regulations, in order not to affect family economies, he said.

Those constant demands were expressed in the march, led by the National Farmer Confederation, together with union organisations from all over the country.

According to the UNT, they are also demanding the development of the Mexican countryside and will show their solidarity with miners and electricians, affected by recent government measures, Francisco Hernandez said.

In a meeting, orators spoke on behalf of the UNT, farmers and the Mexican Union Front and finally, they read a joint statement by the organisations that composed the Movement for Food Sovereignty and Democratic Rights.