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CLC pleased with developments for Mexican electrical workers: Canadian and American offices accept complaint under NAFTA

Posted: Wednesday, 18 January 2012

OTTAWA – The Canadian Labour Congress says it is pleased that a complaint by the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers (SME) against their government will be heard in both Canada and the United States under the North American Agreement on Labour Cooperation (NAALC).

“This is a positive development and we hope that it will convince the Mexican government to negotiate in good faith with the workers who they have treated so scandalously,” says Hassan Yussuff, CLC Secretary-Treasurer.
In October 2009, the Mexican government extinguished Central Light and Power (LyFC), one of Mexico’s two state-owned utility companies. The decree led to the termination of LyFC’s 44,362 unionized workers (the SME’s entire working membership), as well as the SME’s collective agreement and bargaining rights. The government used police and soldiers to occupy and shut down LyFC’s headquarters and hundreds of its workplaces, and also harassed and intimidated the union and its members.

Since the extinction of LyFC, the Mexican government has been running the operations of LyFC and has been providing the same power services previously provided by LyFC, through the use of non-unionized employees and hundreds of non-unionized subcontractors.

Yussuff says, “We believe this was a violation of Mexico’s labour laws and its constitution. It was also a violation of Mexico’s responsibilities under the labour side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”
The Mexican union, along with the CLC, the United Steelworkers and more than 80 other unions and non-government organizations from across North America, submitted an official complaint to the National Administrative Offices (NAOs) in Canada and the U.S. under the NAALC. The parties have now been informed that the offices in both Canada and the U.S. have accepted the complaints and will proceed to review them.
Yussuff adds, “This development comes at an important time because it will add to the pressure being placed on the Mexican government.” The government has been negotiating with the union to either reinstate or re-employ more than 16,000 workers who had refused to take a severance package after their company was unilaterally shut down. But government negotiators have been backsliding and the workers fear that the government will renege on its promises.