Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another Government-Union Dispute

The most vital news around the present union dispute de jour is that Federal Police retook a mine in Sonora, dislodging a three-year-old protest engineered by fugitive union leader Napoleón Gómez, who is presently in Canada but under indictment here in Mexico. Adrián Trejo had the following reaction:
The conflict with the (ex) Mexican Electricians Union (SME) is not yet over and the federal government has launched itself at another union, that of the miners, with the recovery of the facilities at the mythic mine in Cananea, Sonora.

For months, the Secretary of the Economy declared the inexistence of labor relations between the Mexico Mining Group (GMM), the Larrea brothers, and the mining union controlled by the fugitive Napoleón Gómez Urrutia. With this declaration, the collective bargaining agreement was terminated and the stage was set for the actions by the federal forces that on Sunday recovered the very deteriorated facilities in the copper mine, the most important in Mexico. The government should clearly understand that the intervention of the federal forces will continue, owing to the fact that Gómez Urrutia continues with majority control over the workers although in these three years he has lost control over some sections. Gómez Urrutia called upon miners in Cananea to not accept the buy-outs offered by the company --six times greater than those mandated in the Federal Labor Law-- as ex-SME director Martín Esparza did as well. The difference is that Esparza was in Mexico and Gómez Urrutia continues in control of the union from a remote point. Whatever the case, the government made a decision that without a doubt will have political costs, which will be expensive and beyond the operating capacity of the federal officials charged with dealing with the issue, among them of course Javier Lozano Alarcón.
While we're on the subject, Lozano has an interview (in Spanish) with Imagen radio regarding the takeover.


David said...

Take a trip up to Santa Barbara, Chihuahua, and talk with the miners in the Veta de Plata Cooperative about Napoleon Gomez - and how he supposedly made off with their trust fund. It's incredible to see the document in which he gains control of the the trust fund by signing for both the union and the trust fund holders. As their lawyer put it me, "Who gave him power of attorney for the trust fund holders?"

Many of the widows from the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster hold an equally dim view of Gómez Urrutia as their husbands paid dues and then had the union sign a joint health and safety report with Grupo México and the government barely two weeks before the explosion. One of the widows' lawyer said the mining union hasn't showed much interest in unionizing in parts of Coahuila because wages in the coal mines are so low.

Grupo México is no saint and neither is Gómez Urrutia. Grupo México has much better political connections, however.

pc said...

No question that the Pasta de Conchos thing was disgustingly negligent. This whole dispute reminds you of Kissinger's comment on the Iran-Iraq war: it's a shame they can't both lose. I thought Canada was making noise about extraditing at one point; did I imagine that? I guess that's fallen by the wayside now.

David said...

The Canadian gov't has been silent on the whole affair, preferring to say it's a matter for (Cdn) immigration/judicial authorities. I'm not aware of any moves to extradite Napo, although his lawyer, Nestor de Buen, a leading labour law expert, was denied entry at the Vancouver airport several years back. One theory for the Cdn silence is the amount of Cdn investment in the Mexican mining sector. I can't prove this, but it's a plausible explanation.

I spoke with a group of Cdn union leaders during one of their Mexico City trips last winter to lobby for Gómez and the SME and they say Mexican mining executives fly to Vancouver to hammer out collective agreements with Gómez - even though he's not the union's legal president. I have no reason to doubt that.

Another point is that Gómez had antagonized Grupo México for too long. He branded them killers and, shortly thereafter, his legal troubles began. The legal stink on both sides just reeks, but this so typical of many stories in this country: There are no good guys, just varying degrees of bad.

pc said...

I'd not heard that about theunion leaders going up to negotiate with him, that's hilarious in a not funny sort of way. I think at one point even after the uprising the Zapatistas were discovered to be getting federal subsidies, which reminds me of this. The line between outlaw and law abiding is not so clear here.