26 | MAY | 2019
Wave of strikes a turning point for Mexican workers
An industrial glove is seen at the Cananea copper mine in Mexico's state of Sonora February 16, 2010 - Photo: Daniel Aguilar/Reuters

Wave of strikes a turning point for Mexican workers

01/03/2019
16:32
Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Astrid Rivera/EL UNIVERSAL & Reuters
-A +A
There have been 28 work stoppages and eight strikes in 14 Mexican states so far this year

Barely two months into the year, Mexico now has 15 active federal strikes, three of which started between January and February, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (STPS). Furthermore, at least 384 strike notices have been registered, as well as 37 conflicts between unions belonging to the Workers Confederation of Mexico (CTM), the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), and the Regional Labor Confederation of Mexico (CROM), according to information provided by the Ministry.

There are around 150,000 workers involved in protests at Walmart stores and TELMEX (Mexican Telephones) offices. In parallel, workers from the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) in Mexico City have now been striking for a month.

According to EL UNIVERSAL reporters, there have been 28 work stoppages and eight strikes in 14 states so far this year.

In the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, more than 2,000 workers are currently involved in eight labor conflicts, according to data from the STPS.

Two weeks ago, a group representing some of Mexico’s biggest companies told left-wing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that politicians should resist “extortion” by labor unions after strikes and blockades in recent weeks.

Alejandro Ramírez, president of the Mexican Business Council, said strikes at factories in the northern state of Tamaulipas and blockades of railways by a teachers union had caused more than a billion dollars in losses and could cause businesses to close.

Workers affiliated to unions such as the CTM, and the Napoleón Gómez Urrutia Mining Organization have held strikes and roadblocks at companies such as Metal, Avances Científicos de México, Castlight, TPI, Fluxmetal, Arca-Coca-Cola, and Siderúrgica del Golfo in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Years of conflict

So far, strikes of a federal nature that started this year at the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), the Autonomous University of Chapingo (UACh), and the Antonio Narro Agricultural University in Coahuila have only included administrative staff.

However, out of all 15 active federal strikes, 12 have been going on for several years. Two of them began in 2005, another two in 2007, three in 2008, two in 2012, and three in 2013. Said strikes are mostly related to labor conflicts at mining companies in northern Mexico.

Striking workers are all demanding salary increases and the betterment of working conditions.

With the change of administration and a 16% increase in Mexico’s minimum wage, workers have decided to step up and fight for their rights, all of which has contributed to an environment of instability in the operational management of Mexican industries.

Labor lawyers and specialists agree that Mexico’s new government has made workers more “confident” to fight for better working conditions and have predicted that labor conflicts are likely to increase in the next few months, since 70% of collective work contracts are reviewed during the first months of the year.

On January 25, around 40,000 employees from 40 companies in Matamoros began a strike. Shortly after the Decree of Fiscal Stimulus of the Northen Border was issued, which contemplates a substantial reduction of corporate taxes, the employees demanded a 20% pay raise and an MXN $32,000 annual bonus.

Workers from at least 45 textile factories expressed their discontent after their demands were rejected and commenced a work stoppage.

More to come

Javier Aguilar, a labor lawyer from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), claimed that the minimum wage increase had served as a catalyst for the strike activity. The government’s new labor policies have encouraged workers to put pressure on companies, demanding better wages to cover all their needs.

“The demands of workers in Mexico have been virtually ignored since the 1980s. Their salaries have not increased and their employment benefits are minimal while union leaders have grown rich over the years,” he stated.

The expert pointed out that ever since the minimum wage in Mexico went from MXN$80.36 to MXN$102.6 (USD$4.17 to $5.33) a day at the beginning of the year, workers saw an opportunity to demand salary increases. “In the past 40 years, their income was deeply affected by neo-liberal policies.

Manuel Fuentes Muñiz, a researcher at the UAM, explained that the 100% salary increase in the border area and the 16% salary increase in the rest of the country had “destabilized” workplaces by challenging the wage structure that had been implemented in past decades.

Alfonso Bouzas, UNAM researcher, indicated that this labor conflict offered an opportunity to regulate social protection arrangements for workers and move towards more transparent unions throughout the country.
 

Artículo

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