US, Mexican unions file NAFTA labour complaint against Mexico


Industry Automotive Manufacturing AFL-CIO labour Mexico NAFTA

Complaint blames pro-company contracts for enormous wage disparity between Mexico and the US.

MEXICO CITY — Two major US and Mexican labour federations said they have filed a complaint under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) against Mexican laws that allow companies to sign contracts with employer-friendly unions before they even open a plant in the country.

The complaint by the AFL-CIO and Mexico’s UNT was filed with the US National Administrative Office of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation, known as NAALC. The office was created under the NAFTA sidebar agreements, but has been
criticized as having little power.

“The heart of the problem is the ‘protection contract’… signed between an employer and an employer-dominated union without the involvement or even the knowledge of the workers,” according to the complaint. “In some cases, contracts are signed even before a company hires its first worker.”

Mexican autoworkers have protested against contracts signed by automakers like BMW and Audi years before they opened plants here, which allow the companies to pay workers as little as $1.40 per hour.


In the case of Audi, the company apparently hired around 20 people, including pro-company union leaders, who signed a contract in 2014 specifying low wages. When the plant opened in 2016, the over 5,000 workers eventually hired had no say on the contract or their leaders.

The complaint says the pro-company contracts were the reason that “the enormous wage disparity between Mexico and the US has not changed during the 24 years since NAFTA was ratified.”

While Mexico has in theory passed a reform law requiring secret-ballot votes in union elections, the ruling party has proposed secondary legislation that would basically erase that requirement, and allow pro-company, pro-government unions undue power in certifying union representation.


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