Strike action in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, not only threatens labor peace but also places 50,000 jobs at risk, an influential business group has warned.
Juan Pablo Castañón, president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), described strikes and work stoppages in the northern border city as illegal, charging that that there is no justification for them.
Tens of thousands of workers in Matamoros have walked off the job in recent weeks to demand a 20% pay raise and a 32,000-peso (US $1,700) annual bonus.
With many companies agreeing to the demands, more workers have been spurred to take their own job action and there are fears that the strikes could spread to other parts of the country.
Castañón called on state and federal authorities to work together to stop that from happening and argued that those who are promoting the job action need to show constraint.
“The invitation to stage strikes in other cities in the same way concerns us. The obligation of labor authorities should always be harmony and labor peace and that means that . . . reasoning [is needed] from social leaders who are inciting these illegal strikes,” he said.
Mining union leader and federal Senator Napoleón Gómez Urrutia is one figure who is encouraging more workers to take on their employers.
He said Wednesday that if strikes spread, the International Confederation of Workers (CIT) – a new umbrella organization of trade unions – would support them.
Castañón warned that if strikes spread to Reynosa, where there are five times more export-oriented factories than in Matamoros, the impact on employment will be severe.
“The priority is to generate confidence. Yes, it’s important to improve workers’ incomes but not at the cost of employment. If employment is placed at risk, we could exceed a limit that could be dangerous for Mexico in the near future,” he said.
Francisco Cervantes, president of the Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Concamin), said that as many as 600 manufacturing companies in sectors such as automotive, aeronautics and food production could leave Tamaulipas if strike action persists and spreads. The companies could head to other states or leave Mexico altogether, he said.
At least 15 firms intend to leave Matamoros, according to Rolando González Barrón, president of the city’s Association of Maquiladoras.
One Chinese-owned company, automotive manufacturer Joyson Safety Systems, shut down its Matamoros factory yesterday, leaving 550 employees out of work.
Cervantes said that dialogue is needed between authorities, workers, unions and employers to solve the labor disputes although he pointed out that because some companies don’t like conflict, “they prefer to migrate elsewhere.”
However, he warned that they might not be immune to future problems if they remain in Mexico, asserting that “instigators and agitators” of the strikes are also moving to other parts of the country.
Today, about 500 workers at Coca-Cola bottler Arca Continental went on strike demanding the same pay increase and bonus. The situation was described as “tense” this afternoon at the company’s plant in Matamoros.