By RICARDO CASTILLO
Both houses of the Mexican Congress are about to embark on a rewriting of the Ley Federal del Trabajo (Federal Labor Law, or LFT).
The LFT debate is expected to be multifaceted and particularly interesting, mainly because the administration of the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), will undoubtedly favor the exploited and beleaguered Mexican working class. At least, that’s what hopeful dreamers would like to see.
Well-known veteran pro-worker labor lawyer Arturo Alcalde Justiniani says that the time is ripe to bring Mexican workers up to international standards.
“With this administration (AMLO’s), the planets have come together and aligned. One of these signs is that those who are studying economic matters have shown that, in order to improve economic variables, the internal market needs to be enforced, and to improve it, wages have to be improved. his, when the idea of the previous administration was exactly the contrary.”
At present, there are at least eight LFT proposals already on the negotiations table. The one proposed by Arturo Alcalde himself through the Authentic Workers Front (FAT); the one stemming from one of AMLO’s now-darling personalities, mining and smelting labor leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia; the one the once-massive Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Farmhands Union (CROC) and the Mexican Workers Confederation (CTM) are presenting in tandem; that of the Mexican Confederation of Employers (Coparmex) and several from independent unions now being protected by the negotiated-but-not-yet approved United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, which is intended to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA); and those the Canadian unions want right along with the U.S.’ AFL-CIO. And, surprise, the British Labour Party for the first time will have a suggestions voice in the Mexican Congress.
The timeline for the discussions, which began on Feb. 1, is to pull through during the regular sessions period to last through April 30. Both houses of Congress (Chambers of Deputies and Senators) are anticipating a heated clash among some of the above-mentioned organizations.
There are a total of 29 bill proposals (11 in the Senate and 18 at the lower house Deputies Chamber) from the various organizations, but, the outstanding one is the “Alcalde Bill” (drafted by Arturo Alcalde Justiniani and independent unions), which is fully backed by the majority of both houses and AMLO’s custom-made party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena). This bill will set the agenda for all the discussions.
Most definitely, there are key subjects of debate, but it is a sure bet that labor contracts and wage increase revisions between workers and employers will clash.
Yet the new LFT has to change the way unions in Mexico organize themselves in tandem with the current times and abide with international labor standards, including enforcing democracy among the many existing boss-controlled organizations. The law is bound to demand secret votes for individual workers. This alone is seen as threatening by employers because they fear their companies might be destabilized.
The new LFT must also include new procedures for declaring strikes, as well as determining which union actually represents the workers, since it is a fact that many “representative” unions nowadays actually work for the employers.
The still-existing government mediators known as “conciliation councils” will be changed since corruption has permeated them and the new law has to find a means to keep them “conciliatory” without letting them sell out to either side of the bargaining table.
Definitely, wage negotiations have to be looked into. A very recent case, the maquiladora (in-bond) industries along the Mexico-U.S. border of Matamoros-Brownsville, led to a myriad of “illegal work stoppages” and a legal quagmire. Adding fuel to the fire was the recent presidential order to double the minimum wage along the border, which sent some factories reeling into untracked territory as the contracts had been drawn on an index of wage increases versus productivity. De facto increases were not contemplated in contracts and the result was a legal mess that still has to be cleared up.
Another major subject that has to be clarified in the new LFT is outsourcing. Most unions consider outsourcing as an anti-labor practice, particularly enforced by former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, which let in factory setups that were the equivalent of an instant slave labor force, since workers are paid for what they deliver at the end of a working day. This, according to previous drafts of the LFT, is unconstitutional, yet it is becoming a common practice in Mexico.
There are, according to the number of bill proposals, a lot more issues to be considered, but the abovementioned topics will definitely be at the top of the debate agenda.
In the midst of all this came an announcement by miners’ leader Napoleón Gómez Urrutia of the foundation of the Mexican version of the International Workers Confederation (CIT) come next Wednesday, Feb. 13, which distrustful eyes already see as a “reconfiguration” of the old centralized unions which in the past kept the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) at the helm of Mexican government for 70 years. The CIT, suspicious minds fear, will do for Morena just what the CTM-CROC union monopoly in the past did for the PRI.
That and the new internationalization of Mexican labor will be the subject of my next column, which will run on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Until then, thanks for reading Pulse News Mexico.