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News Article

A Glimpse into the First Meeting of USMCA’s Labor Council

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 06/30/2021 - 05:33

The USMCA is making Mexico review its labor practices and study reforms that would allow the country to fulfill the responsibilities it agreed to. Mexico is the US’s largest commercial partner and compliance with the agreement plays an important role in both countries’ relations.

Mexico’s labor reform aims to enforce adherence to fundamental labor rights and legislation, guarantee the protection of migrant workers, promote a cooperative agenda that allows the application of fundamental labor rights and foster dialogue to address differences in the application of the chapter's commitments

The USMCA came into force on July 1, 2020. It includes a labor chapter that seeks to improve working conditions and wages of workers in Mexico, as a way to prevent companies from Canada or the US from transferring jobs to the Latin American nation because of its lower wages. On December 2020, the US Congress pointed out that Mexico had yet not made any reforms in its labor conditions. At the time, the comment was dismissed by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade, Luz María de la Mora, who said that companies where progressing but some of them had asked for extra time to correctly implement the changes.

During her visit to Mexico, US Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the US government would be investing US$130 million in Mexico to provide technical assistance and support in the implementation of the labor reforms during the next three years. The US’s main goal is to eradicate child labor and forced labor.

The primary changes that Mexico must make to meet the requirements of the USMCA are:

  • To establish autonomous labor courts
  • Enforce labor justice
  • Improve hiring standards

To accelerate the changes, the Labor Council of the USMCA met for the first time this Tuesday, June 29. During the meeting, US representative Josh Kagan stressed that they are “enthusiastic” about the Rapid Response Mechanism of the USMCA because it is a tool that helps to “ensure that the commitments of the chapter on work are not promises that are not kept.” This mechanism is an action guide for Mexico. When the US or Canada consider that there is a violation of workers’ rights in Mexico, the northern countries have a period of 30 days to determine if the complaint is admissible.

Canada’s representative Rakesh Patry said the country commits to support Mexico’s labor reform with US$20 million “to continue with the work and make sure that the (Mexican) workers receive the benefits, since that is essential to comply with the treaty."

Aside from these requirements, there are several other issues to be addressed by Mexico’s labor law, which had failed to prevent abuses to workers, children and businesses. On May 2019, prior to the USMCA, Mexico’s Labor Law was reformed to address issues such as:

  1. Outsourcing, which has been addressed through a regulatory reform that prohibited labor subcontracting. This reform seeks to avoid violation of workers’ rights, as well as tax evasion.
  2. The elimination of the Conciliation and Arbitration boards, to be replaced by Labor Courts that depend on the Judicial Power. This move would install labor courts that will be divided into two classes:
    • Federal: Those that will be governed under the supervision of the Judicial Power of the Federation.
    • Premises: Served by the Courts of Justice of each federative entity.

In addition, Conciliation Centers will be created to deal with all labor-management conflicts that may arise locally.

  1. Union dues discount in cases when a worker has expressed in writing their wish for union dues not be applied.
  2. The obligation to provide domestic workers IMSS social security. This measure also establishes that domestic workers should be provided a special resting schedule (especially for overnight staff), at least a three-hours break between the morning and the evening shifts and a night break of at least 9 hours. Likewise, they must be granted a day and a half of weekly rest.
  3. The generation of an environment free of discrimination and violence. Employers must implement, in agreement with workers, a protocol to prevent gender discrimination and attend to cases of violence and sexual harassment. Employers should also work to eradicate forced and child labor.
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst