Workers at a General Motors plant in Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico who build the company’s profitable Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups have rejected their collective bargaining agreement after the Mexican government annulled a vote in April marked by what it called “serious irregularities.”
The move could potentially allow workers “to oust one of Mexico’s largest labor organizations as their union in a historic move,” according to a Reuters report.
General Motors spokesman Pat Morrissey said more than 6,400 workers were eligible to vote at the plant in Silao in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. The votes in favor of the contract were 2,623 and the votes against it were 3,214, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. Thirty-nine votes were listed as null.
Despite the contract termination, “workers will not lose any acquired rights and will retain the same benefits and working conditions,” the ministry said.
The workers are represented by the Miguel Trujillo Lopez union, according to the Mexican government. The Reuters report said workers campaigned against the contract because they felt the union did not fight hard enough for better salaries. A request for comment was sent to the union.
In a company statement from Morrissey, GM said it appreciates that the process was carried out with high participation and no incidents were reported.
“For GM, it is very important that employees have been able to exercise their rights in a personal, free, secret, and direct form. GM also appreciates the collaboration of the U.S. and Mexican governments and of the independent observers who supervised the exercise,” the statement said. “GM fully respects the outcome of the process and reiterates that the compensation and benefits of our employees will be maintained. Meanwhile, GM Silao will continue its production under the terms of the current (collective bargaining agreement) until a new one is negotiated and approved by a majority vote.”
The new vote was organized after the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative asked Mexico to review whether workers were “being denied the right of free association and collective bargaining” based on allegations of voting improprieties during the vote in April.
The request for a review came about because of a provision in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, that allows for complaints connected to allegations of labor violations. The USMCA is the trade deal negotiated by the Trump administration that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the request for a review was the first time the complaint provision has been used.
The ministry said on its website that its efforts to safeguard the election process, which included the presence of inspectors and election observers as well as the delivery of informational brochures, “demonstrate the government’s commitment to enforcing union democracy and respect for the will of the workers. In addition, it will contribute to the development of future processes of union democracy in the country, being a bank of good practices that unions can take up, according to the 2019 labor reform.”
The 2019 labor reform is a reference to changes in Mexican law prompted by the USMCA which require votes by workers to affirm their collective bargaining agreements.
Unions in Mexico have long been accused of pushing so-called protection contracts, which benefit employers. Mexican autoworkers make a fraction of what their U.S. and Canadian counterparts do.
The UAW issued a statement, calling the vote a victory for workers who, it said, would now need to build an independent union movement in the country.
“The GM Silao vote proves that when given the opportunity to vote in an environment free from intimidation and deceit workers will reject pro-employer collective bargaining agreements and pro-employer protection unions, and instead chose to have a voice on the job and fight for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The Mexican government must ensure that all collective bargaining agreement votes in the future are afforded these same protections,” according to the UAW statement.
Source: Detroit Free Press