ITF calls for action on workers' rights in Mexico (2/14)

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The International Transportation Workers' Federation (IFT) has called upon its affiliates, including the SIU and other allies to support its week of actions drawing attention to deplorable labor conditions in Mexico.


Below is a press release circulated by the ITF.


Calling for trade union rights in Mexico, the international trade union movement began a week of action by meeting with the Mexican Ambassador to the United Nations and holding a rally in Geneva, Switzerland today.


Similar actions are scheduled to take place in at least 30 countries around the world until February 19, which coincides with the fifth anniversary of the deaths of 65 miners at the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster in Mexico on February 19, 2006.


Since this time the Mexican Miners’ Union, the union that called for justice following the disaster, has faced systematic, frequently violent and escalating violations of worker and trade union rights by employers and the Mexican government.


Other independent trade unions in Mexico seeking to improve the rights of working people have also increasingly come under attack in recent years through the tolerance, complicity and, on many occasions, the direct action of the Mexican state.


A delegation of international trade union leaders, accompanied by a representative of the Swiss union UNIA, met with the Mexican Ambassador in Geneva this afternoon and demanded the Mexican government stop violating fundamental trade union rights and start complying with its own laws and international standards on human and trade union rights.


“It is now five years since 65 miners were killed in the February 19, 2006 explosion at the Grupo México Pasta de Conchos coal mine. To this day, bereaved families have not received proper compensation, the miners’ bodies remain buried and violent and illegal attacks perpetrated by the Government and employers against the Mexican Miners’ Union continue,” explained Fernando Lopes, Assistant General Secretary of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, a member of the delegation to the embassy in Geneva today.


“The political persecution of the Mexican Miners’ Unions and others like it must stop,” demanded Lopes.


Independent unions including the Mexican Miners' Union (SNTMMSRM), the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union (SME), the UNTyPP union representing workers in Mexico's state-owned petroleum company PEMEX, the National Union of General Tyre Workers of Mexico (SNTGTM) and the Union of the Autonomous University of Mexico's Workers (SUTUACM), as well as the Mexican Telephone Workers' Union (STRM), Authentic Workers' Front (FAT) and up to thirty other unions affiliated to the National Union of Workers (UNT) have all faced violent attacks, intimidation and repression of trade union rights.


Supporting the campaign, Joe de Bruyn, President of the UNI Global Union explains, "For decades the Mexican government has facilitated low wages and suppressed worker voices through a pervasive web of employer-controlled protection contracts. We want to change the rules of the game in Mexico and ensure all workers can join the free and independent trade union movement.”


“Calderon must begin to understand that trade union freedoms in Mexico will not disappear, no matter how hard he tries to ignore it,” said ICEM President Senzeni Zokwana, also supporting the week of action. “Global trade unions in fact are now keenly united on Mexico as a target for vast improvements on social labour rights. Momentum and pressure now become our tools.”


David Cockroft, ITF General Secretary, added, "We have witnessed at first hand the deep running desire of Mexicans for representation and just and safe workplaces. The will and the need are there; it is actions like these ones that now take this struggle forward."


“Mexico must fulfill its international obligations to respect fundamental workers’ rights. The treatment of the Mexican Miners’ Union is a symptom of a much broader problem of violation of ILO standards in Mexico, and the fact that proper compensation still has not been paid is simply unacceptable,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.


Trade unions in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Korea, Kosovo, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom and the U.S. are calling on the Mexican government to respect trade union rights in a series of actions from 14 to 19 February 2011.


In Mexico itself, the independent trade union movement will be holding various actions across the country throughout the week to highlight the systematic abuse of trade union rights by the Mexican government.


Together the trade unions are holding rallies, meeting with Mexican government representatives, and sending letters and thousands of emails all calling on the Mexican government to:


1. Hold employer and government officials accountable for the Pasta de Conchos mine explosion that killed 65 miners on February 19, 2006.


2. Abolish systemic violations of workers’ freedom of association, including employer-dominated “protection contracts” and interference in union elections.


3. End the use of force—by the state or private parties—to repress workers’ legitimate demands for democratic unions, better wages and working conditions, and good health and safety conditions.


4. End the campaign of political persecution against the Mexican Miners’ Union and the Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union.


The action to support the democratic and independent unions in Mexico is being taken by trade unions around the world affiliated to the International Metalworkers’ Federation (IMF), the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), UNI Global Union and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).


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