Austerity hits Notimex; unjustified dismissals reported

Due to austerity measures proposed by the Presidency, Notimex has been dismissing employees in an unjustified way, according to ex-workers of the agency

Austerity hits Notimex; unjustified dismissals reported
Ex-workers of Notimex protest against dismissals - Photo: EL UNIVERSAL
English 06/07/2019 11:50 Mexico City Antonio Díaz, Yanet Aguilar, Sonia Sierra, Misael Zavala & Alberto Morales/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 11:51
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In response to the statements of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who in his July 4th morning press conference said the case of dismissals in the agency Notimex would be reviewed, and that if the injured parties showed proof of the injustices there would be sanctions against those responsible, some ex-workers narrated the way in which they were fired, and published videos and photos in social media that show how they were escorted by an auxiliary police officer to the exit of the News Agency of the Mexican State.

Nonetheless, not all the employees accuse injustices in their dismissals, nor are they part of the group that protested yesterday outside the National Palace, but they do demand fair severance pay.

The first staffing cuts in Notimex were reported by correspondents in January. A group of approximately 20 workers, with seniority between 8 and 35 years, protested against their dismissal from the agency in January.

After the May 3th memo from the Presidency, 87 persons have been dismissed from the Agency, informed the Media Director of Notimex, Sanjuana Martínez, last Thursday; some employees refer more than 100 dismissals.

Approximately 300 people work at the agency, of whom nearly 220 are unionized. One of the dismissed workers affirms that between 77 and 80 unionized workers were dismissed, 15 workers in a position of trust, and the rest were salaried employees.

The labor dispute in public media started to be evidenced in the Mexican Institute of the Radio (IMER) after the dismissal of 240 employees was reported on June 25th through social media. Finally, it was announced that the Institute would receive MXN $19.3 million for hiring collaborators. This week it became relevant once again when employees of Channel Eleven (Canal Once) sent a letter to the President and protested in the National Palace against the dismissal of nearly 50 people; the dialogue of the Once will continue this weekend.

Last Thursday, 14 ex-workers of Notimex protested in the National Palace. In the light of the protests against dismissals and mistreatment to workers of the Agency, and information that even police officers were used to dismiss the employees, the President defended the director; he asserted that she would be unable, coming from journalism, [to give] the order of police force and unjustified dismissals.

After the press conference, a delegation of 4 ex-workers of Notimex was received by Jesús Ramírez, the presidential spokesman. According to one of the delegates, Ana Rueda, they informed the spokesman about the situation “of more than 100 dismissed employees” and showed him the video of when she was escorted by police officers, as well as other documents. “The spokesman didn’t specify an hour or date for an answer to our demands; he just asked us to wait,” said Ana Rueda, who had worked for the Agency for 13 years. She was the one who presented the video that shows an auxiliary police officer and an attorney escorting her to the exit.

Rueda was fired because she could not attend to her job for two days due to the death of a relative, a situation known and authorized by her immediate superiors, Alejandro Salas and Erick Muñiz. The Union processed a license to give her the two days, but it was rejected by the administrative area. On June 11th, the Editorial Director, Rosario Manzanos, asked her to stop working and to go to her office. There, Rueda had to explain her absences in front of her superiors but was told by Manzanos that her “worst mistake was to be unionized” and that there was no turning back, she was fired. After that, they tried to force her into signing her resignation, but upon her denial, a police officer and the chief of acquisitions escorted her outside.

Laura Navarro, editor of the area of Correspondents, with 38 years working on the Agency, was fired three weeks ago under the argument of “austerity.” She demands the same: “We must be paid 100%, according to the law and according to our collective labor contract, what we rightfully own, what’s fair.” Her complain has to do with the way in which the director has made the cuts. Laura was called to the Staff Department five minutes before the end of her shift, and was told by her immediate superior: “Go down to the first floor. I don’t know what for, they just said you had to go down.” The gave her a paper where they informed her that her relationship with the Agency was over, that she had to sign it. The person who gave the page to her, told her, “This is just to let you know. Whether you sign it or not, the work relationship with the company is already over.” That same day she was deregistered from the Social Service.

She said that she understands the austerity and the staff cuts, but not the ways. She questioned Sanjuana Martínez’s declarations: “The director says that we, the workers, are lying. I don’t lie. I worked almost 40 years in the Agency and they are not paying me 100%. I have a family depending on me. I have nothing to hide. I’ve been a decent employee. I haven’t received a compensation, but the Mrs. is dragging us and puts us in the same basket of those who might have not even worked.” Laura told that her last days in the Agency were surrounded by unease, a very tense, hostile and even humiliating environment that could even be classified as a violation to human rights: “It was not necessary to do the staff cuts in such a way; they should’ve spoken openly, but not to get to this harassment; there were notices for every single thing.”

Jatziry Vargas, who had two and a hald years working on the agency, where she was a writer, was absent for five days due to the death of her grandmother —according to her she took her days in accordance with her contract—. She affirmed that she was demanded to show the original death certificate, that they retained her for more than an hour in the Administration Sub-directorate and was demanded to sign a document about the situation, which they used to dismiss her. "I was escorted by a police officer all the way through my entrance and exit."

Armando Pineda, Secretary-General of the Union from June 20th, told that he was a reporter for 17 years in General Information until Martínez knew he had been elected: “They didn’t even give me the chance to do my computation [of severance pay]. They scheduled me with the manager of the office of the Administration and Finances Direction, told me about the discharge, locked me in a meeting room for approximately half an hour, and before I noticed, there were police officers outside. Now, as Secretary of the Union, I tried to go to the office, but they denied my access.”

Austerity is the argument. Sanjuana Martínez, in Julio Hernández’s newscast, from Grupo Radio Centro, said that the adjustment was because of the austerity proposed by the President, and that, in total, 87 persons had been dismissed.

“Out of the 87 employees, 14 have denied to accept the end of the work relationship that happened according to the Federal Labor Law. Some of them are unionized because more than 80% of Notimex’s employees are part of the Union.” According to Sanjuana, since her arrival she has faced “trade-union terrorism” orchestrated by Conrado García, who was leader of the Union, and who for several years took advantage of the public money. About the video that shows the ex-editor Ana Rueda, Sanjuana Martínez said that she was a person with “practically null productivity” and an intimidator, the reason that made her ask for the help of the police officers.

EL UNIVERSAL asked for an interview with the director through her social media, but no answer was received.


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