Mexican Workers Battle Firings, Peso-Pinching

Mexican workers in the northern border and Gulf Coast regions staged separate protests this past week over wages, firings, union representation, and allegations of no profit-sharing.

In the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, 300 employees of the CBI maquiladora were fired after they went on strike June 3. Besides wage grievances, the labor conflict also involved a demand for affiliation with the National Miners Union instead of the Day Laborers and Industrial Workers Union of the Maquiladora Industry, an organization which had long been  criticized by workers for allegedly not adequately representing them.

Tamaulipas state police patrols were stationed outside the factory, which manufactures ducts and metal platforms, after workers established a “permanent” protest around the plant gates.
Luis Sanchez Zuniga, National Miners Union representative, slammed the firings and an accompanying offer of severance payments as an illegal tactic to pressure the strikers. Sanchez accused the local labor conciliation board of favoring the employer in the dispute.

“We are struggling against an entire system,” he said, “but there are higher authorities to whom we can go to.”

CBI workers pledged to maintain the protest until they are reinstated to their jobs.

The labor-management conflict has been bubbling for some time. Last February, 400 of the Matamoros factory’s 600 workers engaged in a work stoppage in support of higher pay. The workers argued that CBI’s welders, for example, earn much less money than their regional counterparts.

“(Welders) don’t make more than $100 a week, even when they earn double that amount in Reynosa or Monterrey, Nuevo Leon,” CBI worker Mario Esteban Lopez was quoted at the time. The average take-home pay is considerably less than $100 after union dues and taxes are deducted, Lopez added.

In the neighboring state of Veracruz, getting back their jobs was foremost on the minds of 100 former workers of the Centro Energetica de Atoyac Destileria del Golfo, a national company which distills alcohol for industrial and other purposes.  The workers protested last month’s closure of the Veracruz plant at a June 12 demonstration held in the state capital of Xalapa.

Ex-worker Abundio Montero said the plant shut-down directly impacted 300 workers and indirectly affected 2,000 others.  In strategizing the next steps for their movement, the former distillery workers contemplated soliciting the backing of the mayors of several Veracruz towns and moving the physical focus of their protest from Atoyac to Xalapa.

Reportedly, the Veracruz state interior secretary is working on a solution to the workers’ plight.

In yet another labor dispute, employees of the Intercon private security firm showed up en masse at the company’s human resources office in the border city of Mexicali, Baja California, to complain about getting shafted on an annual profit-sharing payment. The workers vowed to engage in work slow-downs and sick-outs if their payment demand was not met.

Intercon provides security services to U.S. consulates in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, and Guadalajara.  The uniformed security personnel are paid about $100.00 for a six-day work week.

In conformance with Mexican law, workers are entitled to profit-sharing payments, but Intercon employees contend that a company manager had given them the run-around before finally claiming there was no profit to share this year.

According to some workers, Intercon has failed to deliver profit-sharing payments on previous occasions. Mexico’s Apro news service reported that it attempted to hear Intercon’s version of the controversy but did not receive a response from company headquarters in Mexico City.

Sources: La Jornada (Veracruz edition), June 14, 2014. Article by Celia Diaz Garcia. Proceso/Apro, June 13, 2014. Article by Antonio Heras. Conexiontotal.mx , June 12, 2014. Article by Norberto Calvario Razo.  La Jornada, February 11 and June 13, 2014. Articles by Julia Antonieta Le Duc and Eirinet Gomez.

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Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
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