Thursday, October 13, 2005Strike deadline looms
The SNTSS (Social Security Workers' Union) strike deadline is Sunday at 00:01. If workers of the social security union go on strike, this will effectively shut down the hospital and clinic system that over 40% of Mexicans rely upon for their medical care. In small towns, the IMSS clinic is usually the only clinic available. The union has said that they will continue to treat patients currently in the hospital and emergency cases, but all regular appointments and non-emergency treatment will have to be handled by other public institutions (i.e., the ISSSTE or the SSA). Frankly, the other public health care facilities are underfunded and have poor infrastructure. Government officials claim they have a "plan B" in the event of a strike.
Though last week it seemed like there was progress in the negotiations, things seem to have deteriorated this week. Tuesday and today, union members blocked three lanes of one of the major N-S avenues/highways on the eastern side of the city. Members of the union are still negotiating with IMSS representatives (later today), but one of the union reps has announced that a strike is likely. On the other hand, the government claims that a strike is not likely.
As in October 2003, the rank-and-file has rejected the contract reform proposal and has criticized the union leadership.
The SNTSS and PRD's attempt to pass a counter-reform measure in Congress to rescind the August 2004 reform was unsuccessful; the PRI and PAN blocked the reform in committee.
Other member unions of the UNT, including UNAM and Telmex workers (and some smaller unions), and the SME (electrical workers' union) have declared that they will also strike in support of the SNTSS if a contract agreement is not reached. (The SNTSS was one of the founding members of the UNT.) Essentially, many of these unions are in non-tradable industries or the service sector, and so a strike that includes all of these unions could have a significant impact on daily functioning of services and utilities.
Not surprisingly, the official labor sector (CT) is urging the SNTSS to avoid a strike. Member unions of the CT hold seats on the IMSS advisory board, and so technically, they are part of the 'administration' negotiating the contract with the SNTSS union.
In the midst of the conflict, today I have found out that a short article discussing the politics of social security reform over the last 15 years in Mexico has been accepted for publication (pending very minor revisions) in Foro Internacional, a widely-read Mexican journal. Unfortunately, they want the revisions by the end of the month so that it appears in the next issue, and I doubt there will be a tidy resolution to the conflict before then. (They may be on strike, or the union may ask for a delay, as it did in 2003. I really can't guess what might happen this time.)
posted by Michelle @ 9:15 PM,