Unite works with Mexican unions fighting exploitation

Unite has teamed up with Mexican and North American unions

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his left wing government has begun to enact much-needed changes to the country’s labour laws.

Previously, these laws had allowed companies to sign agreements with ‘protection unions’.

These unions (sometimes described as ‘yellow unions’) had signed agreements before new business had even started up.

The employer selected which union it wanted as well as reaching agreements which deliberately kept wages low and maintained poor working conditions.

This has often lead to violent clashes as workers began to mobilse against hand-picked protection unions and poor employment contracts.

The Mexican Senate approved the new labour laws which are backed by US Democrats as a pre-condition for debating a successor to the NAFTA trade agreement, now known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, (USMCA).

US Democrats say that, while approval of the changes is necessary for a debate on the trade deal negotiated last year, they also want to see implementation and enforcement of the legislation.

The labour annex to the USMCA explicitly requires that workers should vote to decide on their unions and employment contracts in Mexico.

The Mexican senate voted in favour of the bill 120 to 0, with two abstentions. It was passed by Mexico’s lower house earlier this month and supported by the President .

The changes give workers the right to vote on which union they want to represent them and to vote on their employment contracts through secret ballots.

In addition, a new independent agency and independent courts will replace the current labour board which is supposed to resolve disputes and register employment contracts.

Currently, the Mexican labour board comprises of government officials, companies and protection unions which makes it difficult for workers to organise.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador addressing a packed meeting of Mexican ex-pats in London (along with Unite’s Len McCluskey) prior to his election promised to introduce pro worker legislation in the face of strong opposition from multinational companies.

Another significant development is the creation of a new labour federation driven by Napoleon Gomez Urrutia President of Los Mineros the mining and metalworkers union who was also elected to the Mexican Senate last year.

At a meeting and rally in Lazaro Cardenas which I attended as one of the Unite representatives, the new International Labor Confederation was launched.

150 Mexican union locals have already joined the ILC, others are interested in joining and Unite and the United Steelworkers (from North America) expressed their support for the new body as has the US trade union body the AFL-CIO.

The ILC aims to build on the momentum created by the new government and mass walkouts by 25,000 workers at 48 “maquiladora” assembly plants in the Mexican border city of Matamoros where workers won 20% wages increases and bonuses.

These actions also sparked walkouts at non union businesses. Obrador-supporting Senator Gomez Urrutia said the strikes could spread, and the new federation would support them.

He said: “It will be a question of solidarity and strategic alliances. Big corporations operate in multiple countries, and it is time that we unions globalise ourselves as well.”

“As long as the conditions of exploitation continue for these workers, not just on the border but across the country, there is a risk that these conflicts will break out,” Gomez Urrutia said. “We will always be ready to advise and support them.”

Unite the union, the United Steelworkers and Los Mineros are the three member unions of the independent global union Workers Uniting.

Tony Burke is the Assistant General Secretary of Unite, the UK’s largest trade union.

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6 Responses to “Unite works with Mexican unions fighting exploitation”

  1. Dave Roberts

    assistance secretary general of Unite? Come on please. And what about the low paid workers in this country before Unite officials start flying around the world on union money to make speeches? And if you want chapter and verse on union corruption I can give it to you speaking as a UCATT site steward in East London in the 1970’s.

  2. Tom Sacold

    Union officials should be putting the interests of British workers first !!!

  3. Patrick Newman

    Don’t hold back, Dave. We would love to hear about your experiences of nearly 50 years ago.

  4. Dave Roberts

    Thanks Patrick.

    In 1974 I was working on a site near the norther side of the Blackwall Tunnel in Tower Hamlets, a borough I come from. I was bricklaying and we were on the basic rate plus a bonus that never appeared as however many bricks were laid they were never enough.

    Being young, twenty five, and naive, I contacted UCATT and got the organisers in for a meeting to elect union reps. As it was a GLC funded job the company, Rooff Construction, couldn’t refuse and I was elected site steward. A week later I was sacked as they claimed they had too many bricklayers and although I went to the union I was told that as I hadn’t been on that site for six months there was nothing they could do. I went from that site to the George Green school on the Isle of Dogs and was sacked from there because, according to the foreman, I was on the blacklist as a result of getting in the union.

    A couple of years later I worked with a brickie who had been on the Blackwall Tunnel job who told me that after I was sacked Rooff cut a deal with the union whereby everyone had to be a member whether they liked it or not and the company deducted their union dues at source and paid them to UCATT. In return the union guaranteed no labour problems.

    Many year after this when I had qualified as a chartered surveyor I used my own company to check on myself, he employers organisations keep files, and found that I was still on the list and described as a dangerous anarchist trouble maker who should be immediately sacked.

    That’s my personal experience Mr Newman, do you have any recollections of your own?

  5. Dave Roberts

    Sounds like UCATT could be described as a ” protection” or “yellow” union as outlined in the article.

  6. Dave Roberts

    Nothing to say for yourself then Patrick? As I have said elsewhere, you sound like a Trot having a tantrum.

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