Unifor applauds Mexican auto parts workers at global automotive supplier Fränkische after joining the Sindicato Independiente Nacional De Trabajadores Y Trabajadoras De La Industria Automotriz (SINTTIA) union following a closely watched vote on June 26. The vote followed the launch of a union-initiated investigation by the Canadian government into labour abuses by the company and its incumbent union in March.
“Unifor and its Mexican allies shone a spotlight into labour abuses at Fränkische, the same abuses that have undermined and denied Mexican workers their fundamental workplace rights for decades,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National President.
“By speaking up about the harsh treatment, intimidation, and illegal firings these Mexican workers faced, and working collaboratively with the federal government, it paved the way to ensure they had a fair vote.”
The Canadian government proceeded with its first-ever complaint under the Rapid Response Labour Mechanism (RRLM) of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), after both Unifor and Mexican autoworker union SINTTIA presented detailed evidence of labour rights abuses in a detailed claim submitted on March 11.
In the claim, the unions pressed the government to investigate and remediate a resolution to the “systemic and continual denial of rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining” by Fränkische Industrial Pipes México S.A. De C.V. at its factory in Silao, Mexico.
At that decade-old factory, workers said they faced repeated threats and intimidation by both the employer and incumbent union, as they sought to elect a new, independent union in the workplace. This included a series of unjustified firings of SINTTIA supporters.
Since the investigation began, and with the support of Canadian government officials, the terminated workers have been reinstated with backpay.
“Our union is very pleased with this outcome. It reflects the democratic will of Mexican workers and is the latest example of Mexican workers turning the page on a historically corrupt and repressive labour relations system,” said Alejandra Morales, SINTTIA General Secretary.
“It is our expectation that the company will live up to its commitments, recognize SINTTIA, and establish full and cooperative relations. Both SINTTIA and Unifor will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
The RRLM is a unique dispute resolution tool designed to protect workers’ rights in trade-dependent sectors in North America. The mechanism requires parties to investigate allegations and remediate a settlement shortly thereafter. If no settlement is reached, a special panel may be struck to settle the dispute and can levy severe penalties, up to and including a prohibition of goods exported from the facility in question.
Since its inception, the RRLM has been invoked twelve times by the United States and once by Canada.