New Unionism for the Mining SectorBy Alejandro Enríquez | Sat, 07/11/2020 - 16:00
"We recognize what the mining sector has meant in the historical struggles for the defense of labor rights and how that has opened the doors for many workers in our country to find and conquer these unrecognized rights," stated Federal Minister of Labor Luisa María Alcalde during the panel ‘The Voice of Our Miners’ during the celebration of the Miner's Day 2020.
Union leaders from the mining sector in Mexico also participated in the panel, including Mexico’s Representatives of the Autonomous Confederation of Workers and Employees (CATEM), the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNSI), Mexico’s Confederation of Workers (CTM), the National Democratic Union (SND) and the National Mining Metallurgical Union (FRENTE).
Participants noted that the pandemic and the new free trade agreement between Mexico, the US and Canada (USMCA) pose the greatest challenges for the mining sector in terms of labor. "Unlike NAFTA, USMCA has a labor section that has completely different characteristics. It recovers the vision of having investment in our country but not at the expense of our wages and labor conditions,” noted the Ministry of Labor.
The moderator of the discussion was Alejandro Salafranca, Head of the Decent Work Unit of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, who recognized the country's long-standing mining tradition and how mining movements have fought for better working conditions. "Now, in the 21st century, the sector has to address several aspects, including the enormous challenge of environmental sustainability, technological dependence, best distribution of the generated surplus at the local level, full freedom and union democracy, as well as continuous improvement of health conditions at work.”
Pedro Haces, Senator and Secretary General of CATEM, spoke of mining companies’ return to operations under strict sanitary protocols. “These measures have come to stay as the world enters a new reality. The new labor normality requires that safe and security actions be permanent to maintain productivity without risk," he said. Senator Haces also called on employers to comply with the labor provisions included in Chapter 23 of USMCA, emphasizing respect for freedom of association and collective bargaining. "Companies in Mexico must be very careful in this regard," he said.
Ismael Lejía, Secretary General of SND, recognized the coordination between workers and local and federal authorities during the pandemic, as well as in the construction of a new unionism. Likewise, he proposed to establish a day to make sustainable mining visible. This proposal was endorsed by Javier Villareal, Deputy Minister of Labor of the CTM National Committee and by Reynol Neyra, Secretary General of the CATEM National Mining Union. "In the new normal, we have seen good health results. But the industry continues to be one of the most polluting, affecting communities. We will insist on sanitary protocols but also on environmental regulations,” he said.
Felipe Vázquez of the FNSI stated: “There is an urgent need for the mining sector to reinvent its production processes to safeguard health in the workplace.” According to the union leader, the epidemic must be the cause to materialize a new concept of health and safety in the workplace. Federal Deputy and Secretary General of FRENTE Carlos Pavón pointed out the nuances of the new union freedom. “We agree with freedom of association, unfortunately there are still bad practices and we have to measure the situation. Harmony between capital and labor must prevail in the mining sector,” he said.