Strike Action Sweeps PEMEX FacilitiesBy Conal Quinn | Wed, 04/27/2022 - 12:40
A wave of walk-outs and sit-ins has put PEMEX facilities across the country out of operation as trade unions lead protests against deteriorating working conditions. Members of the Union of Mexican Petroleum Workers (STPRM) in Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Nuevo Leon and Oaxaca protested Monday to demand the end of temporary contracts, the improvement of on-site hospital facilities and the delivery of uniforms, PPE and other necessary work materials.
The protests follow strike action taken last Friday by more than 200 offshore workers belonging to Section 47 of the STPRM, who demonstrated outside PEMEX’s administrative building in Ciudad del Carmen, Campeche. Workers claim the NOC failed to provide them with new boots, leaving them unable to do their work. According to protesters, this represents an infringement of Clause 73 of the Collective Labor Contract, as well as Chapter I, Art. 12 and Chapter II, Art. 17 and 78, of PEMEX’s own health and safety regulations.
Last week, a group of workers at the Miguel Hidalgo refinery, located in the city of Tula de Allende, Hidalgo, also took to protest, calling for delayed wages and bonuses, the delivery of new uniforms and an end to the current recruitment ban. Employees of the state-owned company complained that there are no work clothes and that, out of necessity, it is the workers themselves who buy their own personal protective equipment, as well as cleaning and medical supplies, which are not being provided either.
This Monday, dozens of employees gathered before 6:00 a.m. to block off the main entrance of the Pajaritos maritime terminal in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. Meanwhile, at the Lazaro Cardenas Refinery in nearby Minatitlan, some 300 workers protested at the entrance of the north gate.
At the Cadereyta refinery in Nuevo Leon, workers called on PEMEX to reinstate permanent contracts. Since the beginning of the pandemic, thousands of jobs have been lost or made temporary, causing ordinary families to bear the brunt of PEMEX’s economic hardship. A similar story is true for workers of Section 33 of the STPRM where 80 percent of positions have been left unfilled. In both instances, the termination of these positions has increased the intensity and duration of work for the skeleton crew remaining as both plants lack sufficient personnel with the required experience and expertise to operate equipment safely.
Workers at the Salina Cruz refinery in Oaxaca also joined the protests on Monday, once again drawing attention to the lack of maintenance work carried out to avoid accidents. On April 15, tank TV-102 went up in flames for over 24 hours, burning an estimated 33Mb of gasoline. Workers also worry that floating roofs of Tanks 103 and 104, which have been damaged since 2019, could also represent a major risk. The protest at Salina Cruz marks the first time in 33 years that workers at the Oaxacan refinery have taken strike action, with the last time being in 1989 following the arrest of then national union leader, Joaquín Hernández Galicia, nicknamed ‘La Quina’.
The STPRM warned this week that ageing equipment, obsolete technology and a lack of maintenance is putting employees’ lives in danger. In its efforts to balance the books at PEMEX, the government has pursued a policy of ‘republican austerity’ which has seen spartan cuts made across the board. In December 2021, the National Union of Petroleum Technicians and Professionals (UNTyPP) announced its intention to initiate legal proceedings in the US against PEMEX following the breakdown of talks with the Ministry of Labor. UNTyPP claims the NOC has violated labor rights protected under the USMCA treaty. Some PEMEX employees claim they are forced to work between 24 and 32 hours due to staff shortages, while others report having to buy their own uniforms and health and safety equipment.
Yesterday, all 36 sections of the STPRM held extraordinary general meetings to determine further action and demand that PEMEX comply with the collective bargaining agreement.