By Rebecca Van Horn, Program Coordinator, USLEAP
The Mexican Congress is moving quickly to consider regressive labor law changes that would further undermine rights for workers. The proposal is on a fast-track and could be voted on before the end of April.
Among other issues, the proposed changes fail to address long-standing weaknesses in Mexican labor law, including the use of protection contracts and gender and youth issues in the workplace. Approval of the proposal would represent the first significant change in Mexican labor law since the passage of NAFTA, taking a marked backwards step in the rights for workers. The debate comes on the heels of the February Global Days of Action, during which 50,000 activists from more than 40 countries came out to protest the systemic violation of labor rights in Mexico and inadequate labor laws.
According to the International Metalworkers Federation, the global union federation that represents 25 million metalworkers around the world, the proposal would grant employers more power to:
- adjust hours regardless of a contract;
- enter individual contracts instead of union contract;
- pay less wages for unfairly dismissed workers;
- engage with “protection contacts” that fragment democratic unions; and
- set arbitrary minimum wage and work condition standards without the possibility of review or objection.
The law would also make it even more difficult to certify democratic unions, further undermining the ability of workers to oppose abusive working conditions.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), like the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), does not prevent governments from lowering worker rights standards. Governments are required only to enforce whatever national labor laws exist and not the internationally-recognized worker rights established by the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. The new regressive reforms promoted by the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which have gained support with the ruling National Action Party (PAN), would directly violate ILO standards for basic labor rights.
Mexican activists and independent unions are taking action, having held a rally on March 24 and a forum to discuss resistance strategies on March 30, among other events and advocacy work, and are asking the international community to support their efforts. Take action now by sending a letter to key members of the Mexican Congress asking the Mexican government to stop the passage of the regressive labor law reform.