UN Committee on ESC Rights expresses its concern about labour rights violations in Mexico - Severe restrictions on trade union rights denounced

On the 22nd of May 2006, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights published its concluding observations on the periodic report of Mexico, which was examined in its 36th session. In these observations, the Committee expressed its concern about violations of economic, social and cultural rights, and particularly, about violations of labour rights in Mexico, meeting thereby a number of concerns expressed by FIDH in a report of April 2006 on the effects of the NAFTA on labour rights in Mexico.

In its report, FIDH stressed that, although the Mexican economy had benefited from trade liberalization in North America, it had not resulted in a decline of the poverty rate nor in an improvement of Mexican workers’ conditions. FIDH denounced poor working conditions, low wages and labour rights violation - in particular trade union rights violations - observed by its delegates in Mexico. FIDH drew attention in particular on working conditions of women, children, and of workers in the maquilas and in the informal sector.

FIDH therefore welcomes these concluding observations, in which the Committee expresses its concern that « more than 40 million people continue to live in poverty » in Mexico, denounces the low minimum wages and poor working conditions, especially as regards women, indigenous workers and workers from the informal sector, and recommends that Mexico « ensure that wages ... secure for all workers... a decent living for themselves and their families, in accordance with article 7 (a) (ii) of the Covenant », to « take effective measures to improve the working conditions », and to « gradually regularize the situation of workers employed in the informal sector ». The Committee also recommends the prohibition by Mexico of the « practice of employers in the maquiladora industry to require women to present non-pregnancy certificates in order to be hired or to avoid being dismissed ».

FIDH also shares the concerns expressed by the Committe about « the high percentage of children below the age of 16 who are engaged in child labour » and about the « poor and hazardous conditions » in which they often work, as well as its recommendation that Mexico « consider ratifying the ILO Convention No. 138 (1973) on Minimum Age and that it accordingly raise the minimum working age ».

Finally, FIDH notes with appreciation that the Committe denounces « the severe restrictions (in federal law) on the right to form and join trade unions ». The Committee particularly criticises the trade union monopolies and the restrictions on the right to strike and recommends that Mexico « review its labour legislation with a view to removing any restrictions on trade union rights other than those necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security or public order or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others ».
In accordance with FIDH recommendations, the Committee also recommends that Mexico « extend the competence of the National and State Human Rights Commissions to include considering alleged violations of labour rights », and reiterates its request that Mexico withdraw its interpretative statement to article 8 of the Covenant and ratify ILO convention No. 98 (1949) on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

FIDH calls on Mexican authorities to implement as quickly as possible the recommendations of the Committee, and further, calls on Mexico to ensure the independence of unionism and to examine the impartiality of the judicial organs. FIDH also recommends the realization of a participative analysis of the labour law reform project - the so-called Abascal Project - that would be damaging to human rights, particularly labour rights.

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