By RICARDO CASTILLO
Prior to Easter vacation, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved the new Labor Law. Since it is a complex document, I will try simplify it to make it more comprehensible. It must be stated beforehand that this reform to Article 3 of the Mexican Constitution was demanded by Canadian and U.S. union centrals in order to bring Mexican labor laws into tandem with theirs. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated that for the Democrats to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), this new law in Mexico will require three things: “Enforcement, enforcement and more enforcement.”
Surely, this request comes in response to the fact that Mexican unionism, traditionally, has been a pigsty of corruption.
Here are the eight main points in the new Mexican Labor Law in a brief and to-the-point explanation as compiled by news agency ADN Politico in an article titled “Eight Keys to the Labor Reform.”
- Disappearance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Juntas (Councils)
Previously, all labor conflicts – strikes included, were solved by these councils, which upon disappearance became rotten to the hilt. The will be substituted by Labor Tribunals that will depend from the Juridical Branch of the Mexican Federation
- Creation of the National Conciliation Center
The reform provides for the creation of a Federal Conciliation Center and Labor Registry, as well as 32 offices – one per state – to do troubleshooting on the double and nip it in the bud. These offices will attempt to convince all parties to resolve any labor problems (particularly strikes), and in case there is no consensus, cases will be sent to the Labor Tribunals. Centers may not lengthen a conflict for more than 45 days while the Federal Conciliation Center will have the duty to register all collective bargaining contracts along with internal union regulations.
- Union democracy
This was one of the main points agreed upon during the USMCA negotiations in order to favor union democracy, as well as freedom of collective union association.
The regulation recognizes the right to union freedom and protection against acts of interference or meandering (by other unions) in accordance with Agreements 87 and 98 of the International Labor Organization.
It foresees the revision of collective contracts in a term no longer than four years and which have been signed after this legislation goes into effect. It also establishes transparency and clean accountability in the management of union fees and union finances, as well as in the registration of unions and collective contracts.
Also, it establishes procedures to elect management and leaders to union sections through personal – not corporate – vote, through direct, free and secret ballots, with a perspective on gender equality to ensure female representation within unions.
- A curbing of “white” unions
The new law specifies that a union can lose its official registration if its leaders or legal representatives are found to be involved in acts of extortion against employers, demanding payment either in cash or any other way.
It prohibits unions from:
Participating in tax evasion scams or noncompliance of employer obligations with respect to the workers.
Enforcing acts of violence against union members, employers or representatives.
Participating in acts of simulation, assuming the representation of the employer so that the actual owner evades responsibilities – the so-called “white unions.”
Publishing or using documents that point to the carrying out of voting or worker consultations to obtain favors from employers.
- The new law opens the door to the establishment of more unions
The reform adds a paragraph to Article 360 of the Federal Labor Law, stating that workers can organize into unions in any fashion they desire, and unions can be not only guilds, but defined within a company, within an industry, within national industrialist groups or within trades.
- The new law regulates regime to household laborers
The law changes the terms under which domestic workers (servants) can work at homes. In Article 337, it establishes that it is the responsibility of the employer to register (mostly female) workers under the Mexican Social Security Institute and pay corresponding fees in accordance with applicable norms.
- The new law excludes outsourcing
One issue that is highly controversial abut the new law is the fact that it does not include outsourcing or subcontracting. In this clause, the U.S. negotiators’ influence was very clear. Also left out of the new Labor Reform are agricultural workers and supports to this sector.
- Gender equality
Mexican Constitution Article 3 has also been revamped to state that respect and liberty be given to all workers. It recognizes the equality of men and women before the law and states that work must be carried out under condition that assure a clean and healthy life for all workers, as well as their families.
These aspects reflect the real gist of the new Labor Law, which is amenable to Mexicans, Canadians and U.S. citizens alike.
Many questions remain as to just how “enforceable” it will be since there is still in Mexico a cadre of highly corrupt union leaders who are going to fight to the death to prevent the application of this new labor law.
In short, life for this new concept of labor freedoms is just getting started in Mexico.