Silao plant 55% of workers at the Silao plant rejected the union contract.

GM workers in Silao, Guanajuato, reject union contract in historic vote

It was the first test of labor rules in the new North American trade agreement

General Motors workers at a pickup truck plant in Silao, Guanajuato, rejected their collective contract in a two-day voting process that concluded late on Wednesday. The result paves the way for the workers to oust one of Mexico’s largest labor organizations as their union.

The federal Labor Ministry (STPS) said in a statement that 5,876 GM workers cast a ballot and 3,214 of that number – just under 55% – rejected the collective bargaining agreement. Officials from the STPS, the National Electoral Institute and the United Nations’ International Labor Organization observed the counting of ballots.

Many workers who spoke out in support of voting against the agreement asserted that their current union didn’t fight hard enough for higher salaries at the Silao plant, where pickups sold at high profits in the United States are made.

As a result of the vote, the workers’ contract is nullified, the STPS said, “but the workers won’t lose any acquired rights and will maintain the same benefits and working conditions.”

The contract was negotiated by the Miguel Trujillo López union, which is part of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) and represents about 30% of GM workers in Silao. Its rejection by a majority of workers opens the door for another union to negotiate a new labor agreement on the employees’ behalf. Ousting the CTM-affiliated union would be a “historic move,” the news agency Reuters reported.

The vote in Silao represented a first test of labor rules under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, a revamped trade pact that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, just over a year ago. A range of measures designed to ensure fair and free workplace votes are enshrined in the USMCA.

This week’s vote came four months after GM workers in Silao participated in a vote that the STPS said was plagued by “serious irregularities,” including the destruction of some ballots and the union’s refusal to hand over documentation of the vote tally to independent labor inspectors.

That prompted the United States to file the first complaint under the USMCA’s labor enforcement mechanism.  In response, the Labor Ministry said in May that a new vote must be held.

USMCA labor rules and a landmark Mexican labor reform that was considered crucial for the ratification of the three-way pact aim to abolish so-called “sweetheart contracts” between companies and business-friendly unions that represent their workers.

Many Mexican unions have long been accused of corruption and maintaining cosy relationships with companies that are detrimental to workers’ rights.

With reports from Milenio and Reuters 

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.