Free Mexican unions fight back
Strikes by members of the Mexican metals and mining union Los Mineros brought three large silver, gold mines and copper mines owned by one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim, to a standstill this week. The mines recognise pro-company “yellow” unions rather than the independent Los Mineros union, led by Napoleon Gomez, currently living and working in exile in Canada.
The disputes began when workers in the pro-company union decided to join the Los Mineros union. One of the mines owned by the Minera Frisco company sacked more than 200 workers in retaliation for switching union allegiance. Similar actions have taken place at the other mines. The yellow unions are docile, pro-government front organizations with little shop-floor presence, who almost never strike and regularly sign contracts that favour employers.
Slim’s spokesman, Arturo Elias Ayub, denied that Frisco had fired anyone, even though the stoppage in which workers have blocked access to the mine is not recognised under Mexican labour law and could merit dismissal.
The Minera Frisco mine, El Coronel is one of the most important mines in Mexico. It produced 197,631 ounces of gold and 20,419 ounces of silver in 2011. The latest strikes demonstrate growing discontent with conservative, pro-employer unions is growing.
Workers at the Mexican plant Honda Motor Company have also been trying to form an independent union, but claimed the company had fired their supporters to break the organising effort. The United Honda Workers Union said the company dismissed 11 workers at Honda’s plant in the western state of Jalisco.
Another western multi-national, Finnish auto parts maker PKC has signed an agreement with a pro-company yellow union to try to keep out Los Mineros.
Napoleon Gomez recently addressed the Workers Uniting union (the merged union between Unite and the United Steelworkers) conference in Toronto. Interpol have been forced to remove him from their Red List, which would have meant immediate arrest had he ventured outside of Canada, where he is supported by the Steelworkers.
The TUC raised Gomez’s plight and the ongoing attacks on independent union with the Mexican embassy in London during the Week of Action in support of Mexican unions earlier this year.