Teachers block a rail line in Michoacán. Teachers block a rail line in Michoacán.

Teacher protest shuts Ford plant for 3 days

Blockades on railway tracks in Michoacán are affecting automotive industry

A teachers’ protest in Michoacán forced the closure of a Ford factory in the state of México and has hindered seven other automakers from shipping their vehicles for export.

Members of the CNTE teachers’ union have intermittently blocked the state’s railway lines for the past three weeks, impeding both the arrival of auto parts to manufacturing plants located in several parts of the country and the transportation of new vehicles to port cities on the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coasts.

The most recent blockades of tracks operated by Kansas City Southern and Ferromex have remained in place since the end of last week in nine Michoacán municipalities including Lázaro Cárdenas, Uruapan and Pátzcuaro.

The disgruntled teachers are demanding the payment of salaries, bonuses and benefits they say are owed to them by the state government.

Ford’s plant in Cuatitlán, México state, shut down January 31 due to a lack of parts to manufacture the Fiesta model, sources close to the company said.

The Mexican Auto Industry Association (AMIA) yesterday called on state and federal authorities to intervene and clear the blocked tracks.

“We need auto parts for the vehicles that are made in our country . . . to be immediately allowed to pass, we’re urging all parties to respect the rule of law,” AMIA president Eduardo Solís said.

“The automotive industry has been greatly affected by this blockade. It’s very regrettable that one of the automakers in the state of México had to close its plant for three days . . .” he added.

Solís described the situation as critical for at least five automotive manufacturers in Mexico.

In repeated efforts to clear the blockades, state police have arrested more than 60 teachers but all of the detained protesters were subsequently released.

Auto makers affected by the blockades will instead have to transport new vehicles for export to the port cities of Lázaro Cárdenas and Veracruz by road.

The president of the Executive Board of Global Companies, a group made up of 50 multinationals that operate in Mexico, said that insecurity on the nation’s highways coupled with the train blockade could have potentially devastating consequences.

“It is a serious danger to democracy, free trade, economic development and social inclusion,” Fréderic García said.

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

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