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Mexican labour reform proposals respond to employers’ interests

The government’s labour reform proposals were apparently drafted in secret by two senators who are better known as pseudo-trade union leaders of the main “yellow” trade unions that represent the interests of employers rather than workers: Tereso Medina Ramírez of the Confederación de Trabajadores de México (CTM) and Isaías González Cuevas of the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos (CROC).

The proposals respond directly to the demands of company lawyers, who want to prevent explicit recognition of the fundamental right to freedom of association and stop the initiative to eliminate the employer protection model of collective agreements, which would improve labour justice administration. They also benefit financially from employer protection contracts. These proposals contradict the recent constitutional reform and contravene International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 87, ratified by Mexico, and the ILO’s core conventions, including Convention C98.

Some of the more controversial points of the proposals are as follows:

  1. Allows unlimited outsourcing and removes the articles and rules that regulate this practice. Employers will be able to recur to outsourcing if they only comply with the minimum rights established by law and will have complete freedom to use individual employment contracts to determine working conditions. According to the Mexican labour lawyer Arturo Alcalde, this means that “Work becomes a commodity the price and terms of which will be agreed freely in a commercial contract. It unreservedly protects employers, who will be able to outsource work and avoid employing workers who could be called out on strike”. The law currently establishes certain limits for outsourcing jobs. For example, it does not allow companies to organize their entire workforce on this basis or indirectly employ workers to do jobs being done by directly contracted workers. Furthermore, these proposals make no provision for pensions and access to health services so approval would be a major blow to the working class. 
  2. Removes guarantees that currently require written notice of dismissal. It introduces procedural rules that leave workers defenceless vis-à-vis employers.
  3. Ignores the requirement for prior consultation in the form of a secret ballot as a condition for approval of a collective agreement. The government had promised the international community it would end employer protection contracts but the new proposals allow employers to continue choosing the trade union of their preference.
  4. Proposes the creation of a new agency to register trade unions and collective agreements, but this agency will remain in the hands of the yellow unions and employers. It maintains the same pseudo-tripartism that the constitutional reform was supposed to eliminate and that only allows yellow unions to “represent” workers. It proposes that they have four representatives each on the board of the new agency.
  5. Creates a misleading authorization mechanism that will allow the registration of collective agreements even if they do not comply with the legal minimum requirements if the authority does not respond in timely fashion to employer applications for registration.
  6. Violates provisions of the Transparency and Access to Public Information Act that require the authority to make trade union and employment contract documentation available to the public. The proposals restrict this right and ignore the new law.

The decree setting out amendments to a series of constitutional provisions was published in the Official Gazette on 24 February 2017. It said that the changes to the Constitution would come into force one year after that date, which involves approval of secondary legislation by 15 December 2017.

With only a few days to go before that date, hopes that the reform would mean significant progress for the country’s workers have been dashed by these new proposals, which respond to the interests of the government, employers and business unions and attack the most basic of human and labour rights.

Independent unions and progressive lawyers held an emergency meeting on 11 December to plan their response, which will be supported by IndustriALL Global Union.

Valter Sanches, IndustriALL General Secretary, said:

“Mexico continues  the global trend of labour reforms that hold out the false promise of new investments but only make work even more precarious. We would expect that any reform in Mexico would democratize labour relations, implement freedom of association and, in particular, put an end to protection contracts. Workers have the right to organize and choose their own union. They also have the right to not be subjected to threats or even worse, as in the recent case of the killing of workers at the Media Luna mine”.

This is a reworking of the article published on 9 December 2017 in the Mexican newspaper La Jornada under the title of “Grotesca Iniciativa de Reforma Laboral”, by Arturo Alcalde Justiniani, graduate in law at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico) and in Economy and Technology at Monterrey. 

For more information, see the article in Sin Embargo “Iniciativa de senadores de CTM y CROC elimina derecho a pensión y salud de TODOS los trabajadores”.


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