MSN is working with Mexican and international stakeholders to tackle widespread systemic barriers to workers' rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in Mexico and the failure of Mexican government institutions to protect and enforce this fundamental right at the workplace.
One of the biggest obstacles to freedom of association for workers in Mexico is the prevalence of "protection contracts," collective agreements negotiated between employers and "official" unions or corrupt lawyers, which serve to "protect" the employer from the emergence of truly representative and democratic trade unions and genuine negotiations to improve wages and working conditions. Protection contracts are negotiated without the knowledge and/or consent of workers and are often in place in a factory even prior to the hiring of workers. Mexican labour rights experts estimate that the vast majority of collective bargaining agreements in the country are in fact protection contracts.
MSN is a member of the International Campaign Against Protection Contracts. The Campaign includes Mexican academics, NGOs and democratic trade unions such as the Authentic Labour Front (FAT), the National Union of Workers (UNT), and the Mexican Telephone Workers' Union (STRM). It also includes MSN and various international trade union organizations, such as the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), United Steelworkers (USW), and the Dutch Trade Union Federation (FNV).
MSN is also working with multi-national companies who source from Mexico to promote a positive climate for freedom of association within factories producing their goods and to eradicate protection contracts from their supply chains. Some of the proactive steps international companies can take include mapping the presence of protection contracts in supplier factories, promoting worker awareness of the presence of protection contracts and their rights at work, improving auditing to find and address obstacles to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and more.
More from MSN about protection contracts, freedom of association in Mexico, and what we are doing to promote this fundamental right:
Democratic trade unions and the workers they represent in Mexico continually struggle to exercise their rights. They are persecuted, arrested, and criminalized when they protest and mobilize against attacks from companies and federal and local authorities. Further, workers continue to be systematically excluded from any genuine process of collective bargaining. From February 18 to 24, 2013, activists from around the world gathered at Mexican embassies and consulates around the globe to protest systematic attacks on trade union rights in Mexico.
Reforms to Mexico’s Federal Labour Law weaken workers’ seniority rights and allow employers to pay workers by the hour rather than by the day, which is the current requirement. They would also remove restrictions on labour outsourcing, including subcontracting, and the use of third-party employment agencies.
The Mexican National Miners’ Union (Los Mineros) is challenging the results of a union representation election at the Finnish-owned PKC auto parts factory in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. According to the official count, Los Mineros narrowly lost the vote – 2,311 to 2,509 – to a “protection union” affiliated with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) that was supported by the employer.
There have been several attempts over the past few years to make changes in Mexico's Federal Labour Law that would roll back worker rights protections. The "reforms," which faced vigorous opposition from independent Mexican unions backed by international supporters, were initially withdrawn in May of 2011, but following the July Mexican federal elections a new effort is on a fast track.
On January 30, 8,000 workers at the Arneses y Accesorios de México auto parts factory in Cuidad Acuña were informed by their employer that the company had signed a collective bargaining agreement with the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), without their prior knowledge or consent.
A tale of worker organizing, vultures, corruption ... and time travel.
Thanks to strong national and international opposition, proposed labour law reforms that would severely erode workers' rights in Mexico have been delayed. The independent trade union movement in Mexico has been denouncing proposed labour law reforms that would, amongst other things, encourage even more precarious work arrangements, uphold the use of "protection contracts" and enable further weakening of unions and denial of legal entitlements through the use of outsourcing, subcontracting, and temporary contracts for young workers.
In recent years the few genuinely independent trade unions seeking to improve the lives of Mexican workers have found themselves increasingly under fire. This February, trade unions in Canada and around the world joined in actions to support the independent trade union movement in Mexico and the right of Mexican workers to be represented by the union of their free choice. MSN has supported the days of action, working with Canadian and international trade unions to draw attention to continuing violations of the right to freedom of association in Mexico.
Part of MSN's work in Freedom of Association has focused on engaging international brands. Our strategy has been to leverage brand pressure on suppliers to achieve greater respect and a more positive climate for freedom of association in their Mexican supply chains.
To this end MSN has developed a Freedom of Association in Mexico Tool Kit, which sets out how brands can strengthen their FOA policies, auditing procedures and corrective action plans, as well as communication with vendors, suppliers and licensees on those policies and expectations.