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There was a work stoppage on Thursday at Arca Continental. There was a work stoppage on Thursday at Arca Continental.

After union negotiates 20% salary increase, job action proves contagious

Workers at three companies want raises after 37 factories agree to union demands

The prospect of a juicy pay raise and a bigger annual bonus is making strike action contagious in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

At least 30,000 factory workers went on strike in the northern border city on January 25, demanding a 20% salary increase and an annual bonus of 32,000 pesos (US $1,700).

The demands, presented by the Union of Laborers and Industrial Workers of the Maquiladora Industry (SJOIIM), have now been met by 37 companies.

Spurred on by the workers’ victories, employees of three more companies also started job action in the past two days.

Yesterday morning, 150 employees at dairy distributor Liderlac, a subsidiary of milk bottler Vakita, walked off the job as did 170 workers at Blanquita, a water purification company.

The non-unionized employees of the former said their salaries only increased by 1% at the start of this year when the minimum wage was doubled in the northern border region. They too want a 20% increase and a 32,000-peso bonus.

Blanquita workers, who are calling for the same raise and bonus, denounced what they called exploitation by their employer and condemned the indifference of the union to their cause.

They said they expected to receive an annual bonus of 10,000 pesos (US $525) last year but got just 1,300.

The strike action by employees of those two companies followed a work stoppage Thursday by workers at Arca Continental, the second largest Coca-Cola bottler in Latin America. The workers are also demanding a 20% pay rise and 32,000-peso bonus.

“The plant and the distribution of products stopped,” said Juan Carlo Hernández, president of the Matamoros branch of the Mexican Employers Federation (Coparmex), adding that some employees have returned to work.

Arca Continental said in a statement that it was open to dialogue with the workers, who are also represented by the SJOIIM, but stressed that “none of our employees earn the minimum wage and their annual income, including benefits above those required by the law, is higher than the salaries recently negotiated by some factories.”

Company sources said that fewer than 100 workers out of a total of 600 had gone on strike, a figure much lower than that cited in some media reports, which said that as many as 500 employees had walked off the job.

Arca said there were some delays in the delivery of products but the situation had returned to normal by Thursday afternoon.

Abel Morón, president of the Matamoros chapter of the Mexican Chamber of Commerce (Canaco), said that workers’ demands for higher pay and benefits will ultimately lead to a loss of jobs in the city.

Luis Aguirre Lang, president of the National Council of the Maquiladora Industry (Index Nacional), said earlier this week that strike action in Matamoros will result in 15 manufacturers leaving the city.

In a statement, Coparmex Matamoros also said that the work stoppages threatened the local economy.

“The labor conflict that is taking place in Matamoros is a clear expression of the lack of the rule of law . . . Work stoppages threaten to create unemployment and the closure of companies,” it said.

Coparmex also said that factories had incurred heavy losses because they had been unable to meet their production obligations and warned that foreign investment could fall.

The employers’ federation called on federal and state authorities to intervene and solve the outstanding disputes between disgruntled workers and employers.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Financiero (sp) 

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