Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Puts Mexico in the Spotlight for Workers’ Rights Violations

The ITUC, its Regional Organisation for the Americas TUCA and the National Union of Workers of Mexico (UNT) have taken their fight over the use of “employer protection contracts” to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

On 5 December the unions presented detailed testimony to the IACHR denouncing the persistent and widespread use of these protection contracts in Mexico, where employers, the government and employer-friendly unions collude to negotiate secret deals to lock in low wages and few if any benefits.

These contracts rob workers of a voice at work, as they are used as a means of prohibiting the development of free and independent trade unions. The unions also presented testimony concerning violent anti-union campaigns and repeated denial of the right to strike showing how Mexican workers have no effective access to justice. These practices violate the basic treaties of the inter-American System, which clearly protect freedom of association, including the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike.

“For years, the ITUC and TUCA, with their affiliate UNT, have campaigned against violations of the right the freedom of association and collective bargaining in Mexico, including the perverse protection contracts system – which are estimated to be 9 of every 10 labour agreements,” explained ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “The involvement of the IACHR is welcome and supplements the work of the ILO and we hope will accelerate reforms in Mexico.”

As a result of international pressure, the government of Mexico has initiated a series of reforms which would address the issue of protection contacts. The constitutional reforms would eliminate tripartite labour boards dominated by employer-friendly unions and transfer their functions to the judiciary.

However, recent proposals by the government to reform the federal labour law could seriously undermine any positive impact of the constitutional reforms.
The petitioners’ brief, in Spanish, is available here. Photos and a
video of the hearing will be posted on the website of the Commission: