Mexicos government is reforming the countrys labour law to ensure greater respect for worker rights

Mexico's government is reforming the country's labour law to ensure greater respect for worker rights

The Mexican Senate has unanimously approved an initiative that paves the way for labour law reforms in the country.

The proposed reforms to Articles 107 and 123 of the Mexican Constitution would eliminate the so-called tripartite conciliation and arbitration boards (Juntas de Conciliación y Arbitraje) and transfer their legal functions to the judicial branch.

This would mean that labour justice is no longer directly in the hands of the president of the Republic, complicit Governors and employer-dominated unions (charro unions), according to the IndustriAll global union.

It adds that the call to dissolve the conciliation and arbitration boards and establish independent labour tribunals has been a core demand of Mexican democratic unions and the international trade union movement for decades.

In addition, the reform's requirements for secret, personal and free ballot votes on collective bargaining agreements and majority representation, address the problem of employer-dominated protection contracts, which are negotiated without the participation or even the knowledge of workers.

The Senate reform also modifies language regarding strike authorisations, which now read: "When a collective bargaining agreement is sought, the representation of the workers must be demonstrated." In Mexican law the strike demand is the legal prerequisite for any collective bargaining to take place. 

While the proposed reforms may still face opposition from both business interests and some employer-dominated unions, the next likely steps are:

  • The Constitutional reforms must still be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Chamber of Deputies and ratified by a majority of the states, which should happen between December 2016 and February 2017.
  • Changes to the Federal Labour Law to implement the Constitutional reforms and further address the problem of protection contracts and procedures for union representation elections were submitted by the President in April and must be enacted separately.
  • The Senate has not yet voted on ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining, which was forwarded by the President last year with a request for ratification.

Earlier this year the US Labor Department urged swift approval of Mexico's labour reforms, saying they would address its "longstanding, serious concerns."

The proposed labour law reforms are also seen as key to bringing Mexico into compliance with its obligations under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

And last October eight US apparel brands and importers – Nike, PVH, Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, New Balance, Patagonia, Puma, and The Disney Company – called on Mexico's government to comply with an International Labour Organization (ILO) request for reforms to the country's labour law to ensure greater respect for workers rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.