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Painting of FAT supporters with signs for socialjustice & free unions in colorful town
Detail of poster for artistic exchange & the FAT's 13th convention
Artist Beatriz Aurora

Mexican Labor News & Analysis

April , 2013, Vol. 18, No. 4

 

Introduction to this issue:

Earlier this month we received the devastating news that our long-time friend Stephen Coats had died in his sleep. For more than 25 years, Stephen worked tirelessly to defend the rights of Latin American workers as the director of the Chicago-based US Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP), formerly the US/Guatemala Labor Education Project (US/GLEP).

We include tributes from ILRF http://laborrightsblog.typepad.com/international_labor_right/2013/04/remembering-stephen-coats-recordando-a-stephen-coats.html and MSN
http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/node/1121

Steve's family advised that contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to USLEAP -www.usleap.org, or Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America -www.crln.org, or North Shore Baptist Church, Karen Mission Fund -www.northshorebaptist.org.

Steve Coats, Presente! You will be remembered and greatly missed.

 

Contents for this issue:

Mexican Teachers' Rebellion Against Gov't Education Reform

By Dan La Botz

Teachers, particularly in the south and west of Mexico, joined a regional rebellion of rank-and-file teachers that erupted in violence in late April in the state of Guerrero where the offices of all three major political parties were vandalized and set afire to protest their support for the educational reform passed by congress and the states over the last five months. At the same time there were marches, and demonstrations in several other states, and there are plans afoot to strike indefinitely beginning on May 1. Some 200,000 teachers have also filed legal actions either in groups or as individuals seeking an injunction against the government’s education and labor reform acts which are at the root of the rebellion.

In addition to the demonstrations by the teachers, there have also been protests by the normalistas, students at the public teachers colleges or normal schools which are linked to the teachers’ union’s protests but are also raising the normalistas’ own issues. Finally, in a matter not related to the teachers’ protests but coinciding with them, a small group of unidentified young people seized the tower of the rectory at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) to draw attention to issues at the University and its affiliated high schools. While these movements taken together do not constitute a crisis for the new administration, they do represent a challenge, and it is the first major challenge from below.

The question is: Will the movement remain in the southern region or will it become a national movement involving teachers and communities throughout the country? If it remains contained in the southern region, it is likely that the state governors backed by the federal government will be able to crush these movements one at a time, while if it spreads and becomes a national movement, and especially if it spreads to other unions in the public sector and perhaps even in the private sector, it could change the balance of forces in the society and might well set Peña Nieto back on his heels. We turn now to look at the events that led to the crisis and to see how they played out and what that suggests about future developments.

The Background: Education Reform

Teachers have been fighting what they see as an elite-imposed education reform for almost six years. During the previous administration, President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) of the National Action Party (PAN) formed an alliance with Elba Esther Gordillo, then leader of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE). While the union leadership embraced the plan, the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), the rank-and-file opposition group opposed it at every turn with protests by tens of thousands, and while it proved unable to stop the plan’s implementation, in some areas of the country the teachers simply boycotted the meetings, examinations, and other elements of ACE.

When President Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took office on December 1, 2013, he succeeded in convincing the other two major parties—the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)—to join his party in signing the Pact for Mexico, fundamentally an agreement to support the new president’s neoliberal agenda. The new president then presented his education reform bill to the Mexican Congress, which was intended to reassert government control over the country's education system, break the power of the Mexican Teachers Union bureaucracy, and improve the quality of education. At the heart of the new law is a regular teacher evaluation with increased emphasis on merit.

Congress put the bill on a fast track and passed it in short order despite verbal opposition from the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) and demonstrations organized by the National Coordinating Committee of the Teachers Union (la CNTE), the 35-year old rank-and-file opposition in the union. In the following months, Mexico’s 31 states also ratified the educational reform. Throughout the process Mexican teachers, particularly in the south and west of the country, engaged in protests in front of the Mexican Congress and state legislatures, marched, demonstrated and sometimes struck. While the protests were national in scope, they were strongest in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas and in the western states of Michoacán and Guerrero and in Mexico City.

On February 26, 2013, Peña Nieto’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam charged teachers’ union president Gordillo with embezzling millions of dollars in union funds, engaging in money laundering, and depositing the funds in foreign banks. She was jailed and remained there awaiting trial. For more than twenty-five years Gordillo had been a major political leader in the PRI and later became an ally of President Calderón of the PAN, although in the end both parties abandoned her. She had become a despised symbol of political and labor union corruption. Her arrest won support from all of the political parties, from many teachers, and from a wide swath of Mexican society. Peña Nieto, meanwhile, had removed a powerful political player who opposed his education reform scheme, even if she did so for her own reasons and not for the reasons that the union’s leftwing rank-and-file movement objected to the reform.

The Opposition's Rejection of the Reform

Why did the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE) object to the educational reform? And what were the demands of the movement? Francisco Bravo, general secretary of Local 9 in the Federal district, a local aligned with the la CNTE, said, “We have always insisted that teachers are not against evaluation, nor against the idea that the best should be chosen for the teaching career, but you can’t simply disqualify everything that we do in the classroom without knowing the conditions we confront and the educational achievements we accomplish, even if these thing are not reflected in standardized tests.”

Speaking before the violent events of April 24, Bravo said that Enrique Peña Nieto’s educational reform “is condemned to failure before it reaches the classrooms, because it is a proposal that was reached by [political, governmental and union] leaderships in a unilateral way. We teachers have never been part of the discussion.”
He said that an alternative was needed, “First, to decide how decisions about education are going to be made, but also how to eradicate an authoritarian and vertical system that is imposed from the federal and state administrative offices down to the school classrooms.”

Gilberto Maldonado, the leader of teachers in the National Democratic Executive Committee, another dissident teacher organization, said that the opposition teachers throughout the country agreed with the need for a “humanistic educational project that educates critical citizens not malleable consumers for the whims of the market.”

The Violent Protests

While teachers have been protesting the education reform agenda for several years now, arguing that it will weaken teachers and their union and encourage privatization of education, the scope and militancy of the protests grew in February, March and April, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Michoacán, Morelos, and especially Guerrero. When on April 23 the Congress of Guerrero, meeting for security reasons in the resort city of Acapulco rather than in the state capital of Chilpancingo, approved the reforms by a vote of 42 to four, many of the state’s teachers were enraged. The State Coordinating Committee of Educational Workers in Guerrero (CETEG) and its ally the Peoples Movement of Guerrero (MPG), supported by some of the state’s voluntary community police organizations, organized a protest march and demonstration of 1,500 teachers in Chilpancingo on April 24.

When the demonstration had concluded, a group of about 400 people continued to march through the city attacking the offices of the PRI, the PAN, the PRD, and the small Citizens Movement (MC) party. They also attacked offices of the Guerrero Secretary of Education. Doors were broken open, windows smashed, fires set, and secretaries working in the offices were terrified. The next day, MPG members returned to the center of Chilpancingo to storm the offices of Local 14 of el SNTE and the Superior Tribunal of Justice.

Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero ordered the arrest of two teachers, Minervino Morán Hernández and Gonzalo Juárez Ocampo, as the “intellectual authors” of the violent events, as well as the detention of 37 others.

Teachers Union Reactions to the Protest

While no one was injured as a result of the vandalism and arson, the violent demonstrations raised questions about the state of the movement. The CETEG leaders who had organized the protest march, repudiated the violent attack on party offices. Gonzálo Juárez Ocampo, CETEG’s general secretary, said that the mayhem was created by “hooded individuals who claimed they were part of the MPG.” He added that the media had then turned the events into a campaign to discredit and persecute the teacher activists. Ricardo Monreal of the left of center MC party suggested that government agents from the police or the military had infiltrated the teachers’ demonstration and had led the violent assault on the offices.

The leadership of la CNTE called the violent events an “act of desperation” by the MPG and CETEG, but reaffirmed their “total support” for CETEG. CNTE promised to dispatch a teachers’ commission to Guerrero in an attempt to reduce tensions and find a peaceful solution to the problems. CETEG agreed to call off all protests until May 1, International Labor Day, though it was not able to control protests by MPG or by normalistas who stoned buses that carried Federal Police officers on April 26.

Juan Díaz de la Torre, who succeeded Elba Esther Gordillo as head of el SNTE, said that he could not support the protests in Guerrero because the teachers had turned to violence. “It is important that Mexican society know that in Guerrero there are 78,000 teachers who belong to Local 14 of the SNTE. The immense, absolute majority of those 78,000 educators are in their classrooms working and carrying out their responsibilities. True, there is a group of compañeros (union brothers and sisters) that, even though we may agree with their aspirations, their needs and their demands, have not taken the right route.”

On April 26 about 2,000 members of the Front of Organizations in Defense of Public Education (FODEP) in the State of Mexico marched in nearby Mexico City from the Angel of Independence to Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence, to protest “the criminalization of social protest and the implementation of the educational reform.” Organizations participating included the Emiliano Zapata Popular Revolutionary Union, a community organization, other social movement organizations and some teachers.

The Political Response

Virtually all of the political parties in government or in the congress called for law and order. President Peña Nieto condemned the violence and offered his full support to Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero. Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Minister of the Interior, said that he would support the state in responding to the teachers’ violent acts. “I will send federal forces if they should be needed,” he said. Congressional leaders of the PRI, PAN, PRD and the Green Ecological Party all repudiated the violent acts and called upon the government to use the law to prosecute those responsible.

Most outspoken was Governor of the State of Morelos, Graco Ramírez Garrido of the PRD, who called for a “heavy hand” to be applied against those who had committed violent acts in Guerrero. Saying that the teachers involved in the movement represented no more than 10 percent of the teachers in the state, he called upon the government to act as forcefully against the protestors responsible for the violence as it had against Gordillo. As a person of the left, said Ramírez Garrido, he could not accept protestors’ threats against legislators. Yet within two days other PRD leaders were calling upon the government to avoid a heavy handed approach and to seek dialogue with the teachers.

Martí Batres Guadarrama, the spokesman of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA)—the political party led by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador which has just been formed and therefore has no elected representatives in Congress—said that what had happened was caused by those who had signed the Pact for Mexico and had approved an educational reform that threatened the teachers’ jobs.

López Obrador, head of the national committee of MORENA, called upon Mexican authorities to be careful “not to fall into the trap of violence” in responding to the teachers’ protests. He called upon both the government and la CNTE to avoid violence, since “it will resolve nothing.” The teachers’ problems, he said, were political, not police matters.

Javier Sicilia, leader of the Peace with Dignity and Justice movement, warned that the government should seek a dialogue with the teachers and other protestors at the university, because otherwise “the country could go up in flames, worse than the fires of the protests.”

The Struggle Continues

While recognizing that the violent events that took place in Chilpancingo, Guerrero represent a challenge to the movement, the dissident teachers’ movement continues to prepare it next actions to press the government to withdraw or renegotiate education reform. The local unions controlled by the dissidents and the opposition movement in the states of Chiapas, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and some locals in the Federal District plan to participate in the strike planned for May 1, International Labor Day. Teachers in Durango and Zacatecas also support the protest, though it is not clear how many will participate in a strike. Some teachers say that will be the beginning of a national teachers’ strike of long duration. Teachers in the northern state of Nuevo Leon said that they will work, but under protest. In Local 56 in Veracruz the leadership said it will not participate in the May Day march for fear of provocation by “anarchist cells.” Jesús Villanueva Gutiérrez, head of Local 6 in Colima, denounced teachers in Michoacán and Guerrero who would disturb law and order, saying that his members would not participate in the May Day march so as to avoid provocations.

The movement is demanding the return of fired teachers in various states to the classroom, the liberation of teachers who have been arrested and jailed in the states of Sonora, Hidalgo, and Guerrero. In some states demands include the removal of leaders imposed by the national union and the right to elect their own union officials. Everywhere they demand that this education reform be cancelled and that teachers, including teachers from the dissident movement, be involved in future discussions of reform efforts.

At the Fifth National Education Conference called by la CNTE in Mexico City on April 28, and involving teachers from about 25 states, spokespersons said that they continue to reject the “elitist” reform and the process that has excluded teachers, families, and students.

Sources

This article and the quotations in it are based largely on the day-to-day reporting of events in La Jornada, the left-of-center Mexico City daily newspaper. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ultimas/
The Mexican Teachers Union website can be found at: http://www.snte.org.mx/
The National Coordinating Committee website can be found at http://cntrabajadoresdelaeducacion.blogspot.com/
The Secretary of Public Education site can be found at: http://www.sep.gob.mx/
Mexicanos Primero (http://www.mexicanosprimero.org/) is an organization that supports the education reform.]

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Normalistas Block Highways, Seize Buildings

Normalistas, students at Mexico’s normal schools (as teachers’ colleges are called), have been engaged in militant protests over their own issues as well as in support of public school teachers who are opposing education reform. Normal school students fear that the education reform will bring about the closing of the schools that serve rural students.

In late April, students at the Normal of Ayotzinapa in Chilpancingo, Guerrero marched through the capital to protest the authorities’ liberation of two police officers who had been arrested in conjunction with the killing of three students on Dec. 12, 2011. (For more detail see the original MLNA report.

The Ayotzinapa students also blocked the Highway of the Sun that connected Mexico City with the Pacific Coast resorts of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa for hours at a time. They were supported in their actions by the Peoples Movement of Guerrero. Buses carrying Federal Police sent to deal with the protests were stoned by normalistas and MPG members.

Hundreds of students from the Normal Rural Vasco de Quiroga de Tiripetío protested in Morelia, the state capital of Michoacán in late April. On one occasion, they seized vehicles from the Pepsi, Bonafont, Coca-Cola, Gamesa, Bimbo and Lala food and beverage companies and used them to block major throughfares. The products were distributed free to pedestrians. They also went to the Plaza of the Americas mall where they blocked the entrance to the Liverpool department store until some 300 Special Operational Group police showed up, at which point they left and marched to the Plaza Morelia mall and later to the Mil Cubres exit, and then back to Las Americas.

In Oaxaca, students at the Regional Center for Normal Education in Oaxaca took over the tool booths on the Oaxaca-Cuacnopalan highway to support Michocán normalistas and the Guerrero teachers. At the end of April the normalista movement appeared to be growing and spreading in the southern and western region of the country.

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Chiapas: Thousands March for Release of Schoolteacher

Source: Weekly News Update on the Americas - Issue #1173: 04/21

Some 15,000 protesters marched in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, on Apr. 19 to demand the release of Alberto Patishtán Gómez, an indigenous schoolteacher who has been serving a 60-year sentence since 2000 for his alleged involvement in the killing of seven police agents in El Bosque municipality in June of that year. Patishtán is a supporter of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). Actions demanding his release have taken place in at least 11 countries over the past year.

About 7,000 of the marchers were indigenous Mayans; most of these belonged, like Patishtán himself, to the Tzotzil group. Another 8,000 were teachers from Section 7 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE); they were also protesting changes in the educational system being carried out by the administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. The protesters, accompanied by flutes, guitars and drums, tied up the center of Tuxtla for three hours.

The march coincided with a visit to the nearby town of Navenchauc by President Peña Nieto, who was promoting his "National Crusade Against Hunger"; the guest of honor for the event was former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011). "We believe and we're convinced by the facts that this is a crusade against the hungry," speakers at the march charged. "We, the indigenous peoples and campesinos, are indeed hungry, but hungry for truth and justice in the case of Acteal, hungry for the immediate and unconditional release of our brother Alberto."

Source

Reprinted from Mexico Week In Review: 04.22-04.28
Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C. based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view Mexico Week in Review newsletter archives, visit: http://lists.mutualaid.org/pipermail/mexico-week/

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Five Students Seize UNAM Tower; Peaceful Solution Sought

A group of five masked students from the high schools (CCHs) affiliated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the country’s great public university, seized the tower of the rectory on April 19 in an attempt to extricate themselves from penalties from an earlier violent protest at the Naucalpan CCH campus. The rector of the university José Narro Robles, has not taken legal action yet to have the police remove them, attempting instead to pressure them to give up the tower voluntarily.

The occupation of the tower by the five on a campus with 300,000 students and hundreds of thousands more students affiliated with the nine preparatory schools and five CCH high schools has taken on significance at the moment because it coincides with protests by teachers fighting against the reform of the public education system, protests which have also become violent.

In the earlier protest this year, some of these same students set off explosives, set fires, and engaged in a physical conflict with workers at the Naucalpan campus to protest twelve proposed changes to high school requirements. CCH graduates automatically have the right to enter the UNAM and new requirements might make it more difficult for them graduate. The students were tried by a university court for their violent actions and expelled from the university.

In an attempt to reverse their expulsion and to continue their opposition to the twelve points they then broke windows and entered the tower of the rectory, a famous symbol of the university, of Mexico City, and of Mexico. Their actions met with little support from other students and faced widespread criticism and opposition by most UNAM students, university administrators and faculty, and by the left. At the same time, most students, faculty, and the general public opposed the idea of police intervention on the campus which enjoys autonomy.

The twelve points of reform at the CCH that the five student protesters oppose are: 1) a redefinition of the profile of the schools’ graduates; 2) updating the curriculum which has not been revised since 1996; 3) continuing education and updating of the teaching staff’s skills; 4) a physical education requirement; 5) an English language requirement; 6) an optional French as a second language possibility; 7) selection of courses based on five required courses, three based on vocational preference, and two others; 8) courses to be offered on two shifts; 9) the introduction of classes that would last one hour and 50 minutes; 10) retaking courses online or in tutorials; 11) online courses to complement regular courses; 12) a strengthening of the Institutional Tutorial System of UNAM from the second to the sixth semester. The small group of students that opposed these changes refused to dialog with university/CCH authorities, but simply insisted that they be eliminated.

Five former university rectors, 75 heads of university departments, and hundreds of other faculty have supported the rector in his attempt to get the students to leave the tower voluntarily. Most university students also oppose the occupation, and there has not been a movement in the CCH’s in support of the five masked students who are holding the tower. The students’ principal demand now is that they not be prosecuted for breaking and entering the tower, that their expulsions from the CCH be reversed, and that the university officials enter into a dialog with them about the proposed changes to the CCH curriculum.

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Honda Workers' Strike Wins Modest Gains

A two-day wildcat strike by workers at the Honda plant at El Salto, Jalisco in western Mexico won modest gains in profit sharing. The Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM), the union officially recognized by the company, did not endorse the strike which was led by the independent Union of United Workers of Honda of Mexico (STUHM). Workers on all three shifts struck for two-days according to José Luis Solorio, the general secretary of STUHM.

With strong pressure being exerted by the Department of Labor (STPS), workers agreed to end the strike after Honda raised its profit sharing bonus from 300 pesos (US$25.00) to 17,000 pesos (US$1,390.00). The company also agreed that there would be no retaliation against workers who had participated in the strike.

With twenty-five years in Mexico, Honda had never had a strike before, nor has there been a two-day strike at any other automaker in Mexico this year. The independent STUHM, though it won an increase in profit sharing, failed to win the union the recognition that it sought. A local Mexican labor activist not employed at Honda said that while the strike settlement was modest, the independent union had been strengthened and that if there were a representation election at the Honda plant today, the STUHM would win it.

Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada of the United Steel Workers sent a letter on behalf of his union, calling on Honda management to negotiate with the workers. The strike was also publicized by IndustriALL.

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Mexican Gov't Misrepresentation During the Days of Action

The Days of Action in Solidarity with the independent trade unions in Mexico were even more extensive this year. As reported in the last issue of MLNA, the Global Union Federations reached out to workers and their allies worldwide, generating participation in some 55 countries. Meanwhile, the Tri-National Solidarity Alliance (TNSA), composed of unions and worker rights organizations from Mexico, Canada and the U.S., coordinated its largest effort so far, reporting actions in Mexico City, several cities in Canada and Quebec and seventeen US cities.

In contrast to earlier years, meetings at Mexican consulates and embassies appeared more cordial. However, a closer analysis reveals that Mexican officials were using the occasion to spread mis-information.

One topic that was addressed was the recent labor law reform. Since both the damage caused to workers rights such as legalization of outsourcing and capping back pay in cases of illegal discharge have been dealt with in previous issues of MLNA, we will not do so here.

However, two other issues were also subject to misrepresentation at various meetings: compliance with the ILO recommendations in case no 2694 and the status of the red flag against Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleon Gómez Urrutia.

Compliance with the Ilo Recommendations

Duncan Brown, who participated in the Ottawa meeting on behalf of the CEP, provided the following information:

When the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and Canadian unions met with Mexican Embassy officials in Ottawa during the recent Global Days of Action for Labour Rights in Mexico, the Mexican Labour Attaché advised that the Mexican Government had fully complied with ILO requests in the Complaint (no. 2694) regarding of Protection Contracts in Mexico, which was submitted by the International Metalworkers' Federation (now IndustriALL) in February 2009.

In this case, the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) debated the released strong recommendations committing the ILO to investigate the issue further. They recommended that the Mexican Government hold constructive social dialogue with employers and unions, including all the complainant unions (IMF, ITUC, SNTMMSRM, SITUAM and UNT affiliates: STIMAHCS and STRM), to specifically examine:

• How the application of trade union protection clauses, or exclusion clauses, which have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, undermine workers' rights to form or join a union of their choice;
• Questions regarding the minimum representativeness of trade unions in order to bargain collectively; and
• Allegations regarding a lack of impartiality on the part of the conciliation and arbitration boards (JCAs) and excessive length of its proceedings.

The Mexican Government was requested to report back on the outcome of this social dialogue. See the CFA report here:
http://www.ilo.org/gb/GBSessions/lang--en/docName--WCMS_153533/index.htm

Of course, the Canadian union representatives strongly disagreed with the Mexican Labour Attaché and we advised them that we would be seeking a further meeting following the next ILO report on the matter.

That report is now available, and we were correct. In the 367th Report of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association (March 2013) the Committee found, in Section 5 – Urgent Appeals (at page 1), that:

“As regards Cases Nos 2203 (Guatemala), 2318 (Cambodia), 2508 (Islamic Republic of Iran), 2694 (Mexico), 2712 and 2714 (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 2740 (Iraq), 2745 (Philippines), 2786 (Dominican Republic), 2855 (Pakistan), 2928 (Ecuador), 2936 (Chile), 2937 (Paraguay), 2945 (Lebanon) and 2948 (Guatemala), the Committee observes that, despite the time which has elapsed since the submission of the complaints, it has not received the observations of the governments. The Committee draws the attention of the governments in question to the fact that, in accordance with the procedural rules set out in paragraph 17 of its 127th Report, approved by the Governing Body, it may present a report on the substance of these cases if their observations or information have not been received in due time. The Committee accordingly requests these governments to transmit or complete their observations or information as a matter of urgency.”
See the CFA report here: http://www.ilo.org/gb/GBSessions/GB317/ins/WCMS_208542/lang--en/index.htm

Interpol Notice Flagging Against Napoleon Gómez Urrutia.

In some other meetings, statements were made by Mexican officials to the effect that there is no Interpol “red notice” against Napoleon Gómez Urrutia.

Here are the facts:

1. In 2006, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) notified Interpol of arrest warrants filed against Gómez Urrutia in Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí and Sonora. Based on these charges, Interpol issued a Red Notice on June 5, 2006 (File No. A-1216/6-2006).

2. All of these charges were subsequently thrown out by Mexican appeals courts. However, the Government did not inform Interpol and the Red Notice remained in effect.

3. In 2011, Gómez Urrutia brought a lawsuit against the Attorney General to force him to notify Interpol that there was no longer a legal basis for the Red Notice and to request its withdrawal. On February 13, 2013, the First Collegiate Tribunal (in a unanimous decision) ordered the Attorney General to cancel the Red Notice against Gómez (File No. R.P. 224/2012).

4. Since the dismissal of the original charges, Mexican authorities on three occasions have sought additional arrest warrants against Gómez Urrutia on federal charges. All of these requests have been found unconstitutional by the courts. A fourth attempt, on March 14, 2013, has been appealed.

5. On March 29, 2013, the Secretariat to the Commission for the control of INTERPOL's files informed the attorney for Gómez Urrutia as follows: “We would like to inform you that based on the information in its possession and after an in depth study, of your client's file, the Commission considered that the information recorded concerning him raised strong doubts concerning its compliance with INTERPOL's rules.
Following the Commission's recommendation, the information relating to Mr Napoleon GOMEZ URRUTIA which had been provided by Mexico was deleted from INTERPOL's files.”

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Hundreds in Jalapa, Mexico City Protest Journalists' Murders

Hundreds marched in Jalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz, and in Mexico City on April 28 to protest the murder of Regina Martínez, a journalist killed a year ago, as well as to oppose the series of murders and disappearances of journalists in Mexico. Protestors demanded that President Enrique Peña Nieto and Minister of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong take action to bring justice to the killers of Martínez and other reporters and to stop the attacks on other journalists.

Protestors said that there had been 15 assassinations of journalists in 2012 and 137 acts of aggression altogether. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists reported in February that 12 Mexican journalists were missing and 14 killed between 2006 and 2012 because of their work. The Mexican Human Rights Commission reports that 81 journalists have been killed since 2000. The journalists are believed to be murdered or disappeared because of their investigations of and reporting on the drug cartels.

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Labor Outsourcing Rises in Mexico

[April 13, Ciudad Juarez] Greater labor outsourcing has emerged as one consequence of the Great Recession on labor-management relations in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez.

Cited in the maquiladora industry trade journal Juárez-El Paso Now, official Mexican government figures from the National Institute of Geography, Statistics and Informatics report that the percentage of sub-contracted workers in the assembly-for-export sector rose from 9.1 percent of the workforce in 2007 to 15.3 percent by 2013.

According to the report, labor outsourcing is heavily concentrated on the shop floor, especially with the employment of machine operators, while less than one percent of skilled, mid-level and administrative positions are contracted out to labor brokers. Unidentified officials, however, said sub-contracting is growing for more specialized jobs as demand increases for welders, computer systems engineers, maintenance supervisors and technicians.

The pivotal role of labor contractors in the local maquiladora industry was evident at an April 8 job fair sponsored by Taiwan-based Wistron Mexico. The information technology company, which posted $22.6 billion in 2012 revenues, advertised for 1,000 machine operators, quality control inspectors and technicians. Available job openings were announced for eight different shifts varying between six and ten-and-a-half hours each in duration.

Wistron applicants were directed to several temp agencies including APSIS, Administrative Outsourcing Systems, Kelly Services, BBN HR Partners, and Multiple. As is now the standard practice in the Ciudad Juárez maquiladora industry, potential employees were asked to provide documented proof of a clean criminal record.

Analysts estimate that the maquiladora sector claims about 60 percent of all the formal jobs in Ciudad Juárez. Last year, the 19,246 new maquiladora jobs accounted for 96 percent of all the new formal employment in the city. Generally, formal employment is defined as a job that is registered with the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).

In 2013, contradictory influences shape the maquiladora employment picture. Guillermo Gutierrez Morquecho, director of Ciudad Juárez’s Maquiladora Association (AMAC), predicted that between 25,000 to 30,000 new factory jobs will come to the border city this year. Gutierrez acknowledged that 701 jobs vanished in March, following sharp increases in hiring during January and February, but he said a turn-around on the employment front was expected soon.

Companies including Wistron, Delphi, Foxconn, Sylvania, Vistron Bosch, and others have already expanded or announced further expansions of their Ciudad Juárez manufacturing operations. Largely bound to the U.S. economy, in which contradictory signs abound, the fortunes of the maquiladora industry will also be influenced by possible tax reform legislation in Mexico, Gutierrez said.

The IMSS’ latest numbers peg maquiladora industry employment in Ciudad Juárez at 211,506 persons. The current workforce is still nearly 40,000 below the pre-economic crisis figure of 250,000 in 2007.

Sources

Juárez-El Paso Now, April 2013. Nortedigital.com, April 12, 2013. Article by Nancy González Soto. El Diario de El Paso, April 8, 2013. Article by Martín Coronado. El Diario de Juárez, April 5, 2013. Article by Horacio Carrasco. Maquilaportal.com, February 1, 2013.

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico Border News, Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription write to: email:fnsnews@nmsu.edu.

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LABOR SHORTS: UFCW Canada/CNC Pact; Mexico Cheaper than China; Remittances Fall

CNC and UFCW Canada sign pact

On April 15, 2013, the National Farm Workers' Confederation (CNC) and UFCW Canada signed an agreement to ensure that the rights of migrant agriculture workers are protected and defended in Mexico, Canada and the United States. The mutual cooperation agreement provides for labor rights training, proactive monitoring and advocacy. To this end, UFCW Canada and the CNC will also be developing a comprehensive database and analytical reports on the conditions facing migrant agriculture workers in Mexico, United States and Canada. This research and analysis will also be used to develop programs to improve access to social programs and benefits such as health, housing, and educational subsidies for the workers and members of their families.

Mexican Labor Cheaper Than China

According to an April 5, 2013 article in the Financial Times, Mexican labor is now cheaper than China: “It is no secret that the wage gap between Mexico and China has been narrowing in recent years. While labour costs in China were roughly 200 per cent lower than those in Mexico a decade ago, wage inflation in China and wage stagnation in Mexico have combined to close the gap to nearly zero… Not only are average hourly manufacturing wages in Mexico now lower than those in China in constant dollar terms, they are 20 per cent less,” due to increasing wages in China, high transportation costs and recovery of the US economy. Mexico has been able to regain market share in the US. The article continues: “In our view, an important force behind this trend is Mexico’s hourly wages are 19.6% cheaper than those of China,” adding that the demographic boom will limit wage increases.

Remittances Fall with Peso Increase in Value

Foreigners now own between 37.3 and 37.8 percent of Mexican internal government debt. Increased foreign investment is due to an interest rate of 3.81% on Mexican treasury certificates. This foreign investment bubble has affected the exchange rate, driving down the value of the dollar, relative to the peso to under 12. While this means that imported goods in Mexico are less expensive, it also results in less revenue from oil, migrant remittances and tourism, all important parts of the Mexican economy. In January and February, migrant remittances decreased 7.1 percent compared with the same period in 2012, continuing an eight month slide. Source: FNS News, April 16, 2013

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