La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Mexican labor laws

For decades, Mexican unions, employers, and the government have been discussing the need to reform Mexico's labor law, which had its last significant reform in 1973. I have mentioned this before.

Though there hasn't been a formal reform, many aspects of the current labor law have not been vigorously enforced for quite some time. At least as far back as President Salinas, Presidents have appointed Secretaries of Labor with questionable commitments to the enforcement of labor regulations. Fox's original Secretary of Labor (before Creel stepped down from Secretary of State to run for the PAN's presidential nomination and the Labor Secretary became the Secretary of State) was actually a former president of the largest employer's association in Mexico. Talk about a fox guarding the hen house.

I mention all this because the FSTSE (Federation of Unions of State Employees) has announced that about 300K federal employees are working without labor contracts. This is just another example of the lack of enforcement of the Federal Labor Law.

From my point of view, the irony is that it's the FSTSE who is raising this issue, since it's commonly viewed as one of the most charro unions in Mexico. It's leader, Joel Ayala, is often criticized for being a lapdog of first the PRI and now Fox. His personal disagreement with Elba Esther Gordillo and the dissatisfaction of many FSTSE member unions led, in part, to the creation of the FEDESSP, an alternative labor federation of government employee unions.

So far, the FSTSE has not been fierce in its resistance to the proposed ISSSTE pension reforms. It has sought some minor concessions, but has not opposed the fundamental shift to defined-contribution, individual accounts. With the release of this report about the large number of government workers without labor contracts, it seems like FSTSE is trying to appear strident in its opposition to reform plans without actually committing itself to try to stop the reforms.

posted by Michelle @ 10:29 AM,


At 2/07/2006 7:39 PM, Anonymous oso said...

I don't have your email, but thought you might be interested in this:

At 2/08/2006 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you checked this out?
What do you think?

At 2/08/2006 11:33 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Thanks, oso. Hadn't seen that. Will have to look closer, but I wonder how he has time to make such trips? I notice he mentions mortgages in Mexico--yes there is a larger mortgage market, but interest rates have come down too much yet.

Speaking of Finance Ministers and "stabilizing development," I interviewed Antonio Ortiz Mena in 2001 for my research. That was pretty amazing. He was the architect of Mexico's stabilized development of the 1950s and the man who should have been president in 1970. (Finance Minister from 58-76, I think.) He had some difficulty seeing far away and hearing, but was still very sharp and a pleasure to talk to. Sometimes I'm amazed at who in Mexico is willing to give me an hour of their time.

At 2/08/2006 11:38 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I saw the headlines for the story about the Sheraton throwing out the Cuban delegation and thought about making a bad joke about Paris Hilton.... There has been coverage in La Jornada, the Washington Post, and the Times, too. I will probably catch up on it tomorrow.

In the meantime, it's not the first time a US company has made a business decision on the basis of US policy toward Cuba. I remember when Wal-Mart, the largest private retail chain in Mexico, stopped selling Cuban rum in its stores. I seem to recall an estimate that Cuban rum sales dropped by 20% in Mexico following the decision of Wal-Mart. I'll see if I can find a link tomorrow.

At 2/08/2006 11:38 PM, Anonymous oso said...

Do you have a copy of the interview? That would be a cool thing to post.

At 2/08/2006 11:45 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I have notes somewhere and I cite it in my dissertation.

But here's a good tidbit...not exact words b/c I don't tape my interviews...He helped design the ISSSTE pension system in the late 1950s...which is why I was interviewing him. And the doctors in many rural parts of Mexio resisted becoming employees of the IMSS because it would imply a loss of autonomy. (Of course now, IMSS doctors are fighting to not lose their IMSS jobs, but it was different in the 50s.) So, IMSS wanted to establish clinics in some provincial towns, but the doctors were resisting. In one town (I forget where, but you'd recognize the name if I told you), the doctors were resisting the creation of an IMSS clinic; they wanted to continue to be private and charge IMSS to serve covered workers. So, the doctors bought and rented all of the vacant buildings in order to keep IMSS out of the town.

Ortiz Mena sent Maria de los Angeles's father (whose name escapes me and with whom she does not speak these days) to the town to find a site for the clinic. He could find no free building, so he rented the town brothel and trained all the women to be nurses and that became the IMSS clinic. Ortiz Mena thought that was something else, and said the women really liked the opportunity to work as nurses. He cited it as an example of how he had to work around resistance to progress.

Good, huh?


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