Companies Remain Open Despite Government DemandsBy Cas Biekmann | Tue, 05/05/2020 - 15:55
Keeping people at home is crucial to keep the virus at bay, so offices and shops are closed, unless they are deemed essential. Some companies have been ousted by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (STPS) for not complying with government demands. Yet the issue is not as simple as some companies carelessly ignoring necessary demands, as the definition of ‘essential’ invites discussion.
Luisa María Alcalde, Minister of Labor, reported that 6 percent of Mexico’s companies have not shut their doors for business even though they were asked to do so. The week before, 13 percent of companies in the country were still in a state of non-compliance. Alcalde said Grupo Elektra continues to attract customers and has kept its 10,000 employees all over the country working despite warnings. Alcalde stated that Grupo Elektra has engaged in non-essential activities and therefore needed to be closed. Other companies that did not comply with the policy were Autofin and Hyplasa.
Grupo Elektra’s officials said in a press release: “Most Mexicans live day to day without the privilege of accessing online purchasing or credit cards. Elektra is there for those who need essential products and services during the emergency.” Telecommunication items were classified as essential for people who need to stay in contact with their loved ones and cannot visit them. Household items such as refrigerators and stoves are essential, as well as computers that allow people to work from home, argues Grupo Elektra. Forbes Mexico reported that anonymous workers decried unsafe working conditions due to the absence of anti-bacterial hand gel and facemasks.
While cause for concern, these issues were not directly mentioned by STPS in their argument against Grupo Elektra. The dispute tears open the issue of what is considered essential work. Most would say supermarkets are essential. Hospitals, of course, have to work at full potential. Buzzfeed News reported that in the US, Office Depot workers at times disagreed that their work was essential and would rather stay home. If office supplies are essential, then why would Grupo Elektra’s reasoning not be valid? And what about essential platforms such as Amazon selling non-essential items? There is plenty of room for discussion but for now, the government opts to keep a firm interpretation of its previous definition of essentiality. President López Obrador, however, is choosing not to sanction Grupo Elektra and others, yet. Instead, the president hopes to convince companies without any show of force, an approach he is confident will yield results by next week.