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Puebla Complaints Affirmed in U.S. NAO Report

September 22, 2004

Puebla Complaints Affirmed in U.S. NAO Report

On September 22, 2004, the U.S. NAO released its report on Public Communication 2003-1 (Puebla), recommending Ministerial Consultations with the Mexican Government to address the issues of freedom of association, minimum employment standards and occupational health and safety. In what amounts to a fairly pointed critique of the Mexican Government, the report acknowledges the recurrent biases of the Local Labour and Arbitration Boards, stating that "…the U.S. NAO cannot ignore the similarities in this case and previous submissions before it regarding denial of union registration on what seem to be hyper-technical grounds. The same similarities also appear in recent and ongoing cases in Mexico as noted by the submitters." The Mexican Government is also criticized for its refusal to participate in face-to-face meetings with members of the U.S. NAO during the submission review process. The report concludes:

"The continuing difficulty for independent unions to gain registration rights, especially within the maquiladora sector, is supported by credible testimony of non-governmental organizations and legal experts within Mexico. The Government of Mexico itself has on several occasions recognized shortcomings in the union registration process, but, if it has taken action to address the matter, the results are not immediately evident. Transparency in the union representation process, internal union democracy, responsiveness to union membership, and workers' freedom to choose the union to represent them (or to choose not to be represented) are important issues raised in this submission which merit further consultations."

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Canadian NAO also recommends Ministerial Consultations

On May 11, 2005, the Canadian NAO released its Review Report of Public Communication CAN 2003-1, recommending Ministerial Consultations with the Mexican Government to address the issues of the union registration process, the impartiality and independence of labour boards, workers’ access to information about their collective agreements, and the protection of workers from dismissal for organizing a union.

The Canadian NAO has not yet requested Ministerial Consultations to deal with alleged occupational health and safety and minimum employment standards violations as it is awaiting further documentation from the Mexican NAO. Once it has received and reviewed this information, the Canadian NAO may provide the Minister with further recommendations.

Like the US NAO, the Canadian NAO acknowledges that the complaints related to the Tarrant Mexico and Matamoros Garment factories are indicative of a systemic problem. As stated in the press release issued the same day, the NAO “recognized that some of the issues have been raised in previous public communications and seem to continue to be unresolved.” They elaborate on this pattern further in the report:

Nonetheless, the overall pattern of events raises concerns about whether Mexico is in conformity with NAALC obligations to promote compliance with and effectively enforce national labour laws (Article 3), and to ensure that administrative proceedings for the enforcement of labour laws are not unnecessarily complicated and do not entail unwarranted delays (Article 5.1(d) ). It should be noted that similar concerns with respect to registration procedures were identified in the report of the US NAO on Public Communication US 94-03, and in the report of the Worker Rights Consortium on the registration application by the Sindicato Independiente de los Trabajadores de la Empresa Kukdong Internacional de Mexico (SITEKIM) in June 2001. This strongly indicates that the problems faced by independent unions with regard to the administration of union registration procedures in Mexico continue to be unresolved.” (5-4)

Read the complete report
Read the press release

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