Right to strike under threat in Mexico




In his final months in office, last Saturday President Felipe Calderón sent Congress a draft labour reform bill which according to analysts will soften labour regulations. If approved, the bill would also restrict the right to strike.

According to the Mexican daily newspaper, La Jornada, this bill proposes new contract types with trial periods of up to 180 days, hourly pay, the legalisation of subcontracting, makes it easier to fire people and caps back pay at 12 months for strikes or disputes.

The law also provides for intervention in trade union finances proposing that these “will be reviewed annually by an external auditor” and that in all cases “the results will be widely distributed amongst the trade union members”.

“The draft bill includes measures to guarantee internal democracy, a secret and direct ballot, transparency and accountability in Mexican trade unions” justified Calderón in a government statement.

One of the most controversial issues in the draft bill gives employers the right to request arbitration from the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Board in all strikes lasting more than 120 days or 60 days in the public service.

This is the second time that the labour reform bill has been put before Congress. In March 2011, the then Labour Secretary, Javier Lozano, tried to get a similar law passed to amend the Federal Labour Law.

However, the bill was rejected by Mexican and international workers’ organisations who denounced the government’s lack of consultation with the social partners. Critics of the bill also pointed out that the proposed labour reform would restrict trade union freedom and increase instability in labour relations.

This year, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has condemned attempts to reform labour legislation at the federal and state level, “to the detriment of workers’ rights and minimum labour standards”.

“The persecution of independent trade unions is constant. Trade unions representing electricians, oil workers and telephone workers amongst others have been the victims of violent attacks, intimidation and repression.

Two trade unionists who had been in prison for some time were released during the year thanks to intense pressure at the national and international level”, pointed out the Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights.

The reform was presented to Congress as a “preferred bill” and must therefore be put to a vote in the Chamber of Deputies within 30 days. Calderón’s PAN party lost the presidential elections in July to the PRI that ruled the country for 71 years and returns to power under Enrique Peña Nieto.



This article has been translated from Spanish.