The labor political agenda during this administration has been one of the most active ones, and Luisa María Alcalde Luján, the new Secretary of the Interior, was one of the main operators of the wave of changes in these matters.
From the creation of Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro [Young People Building the Future] to the implementation of the labor reform, the official’s leadership of the Department of Labor and Social Welfare and the balance of the obtained results were considered as positive by the specialists that were consulted.
“She is one of the Secretaries of labor who has had the most success in her tenure. It fell upon her to face the most important changes that we have had in decades and, in a very short period of time, in four years, these were major changes. The implementation was quite good”, acknowledges Óscar de la Vega, partner at D&M Abogados.
The implementation of the labor reform of 2019 was completed in May of this year; this was the most important change during the tenure of Luisa María Alcalde, specialists agree. The legal amendments established new rules of union democracy and collective bargaining, as well as a model for the resolution of conflicts between employers and employees, which included the creation of federal and local labor conciliation centers and courts.
“Management was excellent, mainly because of the promotion of the social support programs and the impulse given to the labor reform, despite the limitations that it is being implemented with. The essence was the change of the labor model, it was not a reform that patched up the previous model, which was one of overexploitation of labor. The current model is not one that seeks to find innocent and guilty parties, it simply has the objective of rebuilding relationships”, Alfonso Bouzas, coordinator of the Citizen Observatory of the Labor Reform, points out.
In addition to the new model of labor justice and collective bargaining, the reform on subcontracting, the acknowledgment of the labor rights of domestic workers, the recovery of the minimum wage, the new regulations for teleworking, the increase in the number of vacation days and the regulation of minors in non-hazardous activities in agricultural fields were also changes that the STPS implemented in practice, in spite of the fact that some of them arose from legislative movements promoted by the opposition, as is the case of proper vacations.
As opposed to legal amendments in other matters, the labor reforms of the current administration have waged their battles in the courts and are fully operational.
“Commitment was shown, and sleeves were rolled up. In the collective bargaining processes that I participated in, I saw a person that was interested in solving the problems at hand. And even though there have been problems, they have not blown up like a tsunami in these four years”, Óscar de la Vega points out.
There are, of course, areas of opportunity, such as the disruption caused by the reform on outsourcing in certain sectors and the lack of flexibility in labor relationships, which have had an impact on informal employment schemes. In this sense, the specialist hopes that “there will be flexibility of the provisions in specific cases, an analysis to avoid having a negative impact on business results”, and more gradual implementations, particularly because of the costs that are generated for micro, small and medium-sized companies.
Regulatory changes were not the only challenges faced by Luisa María Alcalde as Secretary of Labor; within the agency, she also headed the redesign of the inspection model based on cross-referencing information with other areas of the government, the strategy of auto-compliance and the operation of Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro (JCF), one of the flagship programs of the current federal administration.
One of the key challenges at this stage, in the opinion of Alfonso Bouzas, who is also a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), are the technological changes that “questioned classic labor regulations such as stability, working hours and salary.” Regulations such as the reform on teleworking addressed a part of these transformations, but “we have not yet redrawn the bases of labor relationships to fit the new reality, the classic scheme of subordinated work does not resolve the new situations.”
From the perspective of Óscar de la Vega, the progress that has been made is “plausible” and one of the keys for its implementation was that the business sector understood the importance of the changes and showed its commitment, particularly in the case of the recovery of the minimum wage.
But in the midst of this wave of changes, the external factor that contributed to the advance in labor matters, he emphasizes, was the new Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada (USMCA). “It set a deadline.”
Who is Luisa María Alcalde Luján?
The new Secretary of the Interior holds a Law Degree from the UNAM and a Master’s Degree in Law from the University of California, Berkeley. Between 2011 and 2012 she coordinated the Morena youth movement at the national level, and between 2012 and 2015 she was a federal representative and a member of the Commission of Labor and Social Welfare.
In 2018 she joined the cabinet of president Andrés Manuel López Obrador as Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, becoming the second woman to hold this position and the youngest head of the department.
During her tenure she headed a restructuring of the STPS’ organization chart, creating a specialized unit for the promotion of proper work, one of the main axes of the labor policy of this department.
The prioritary objectives of the department with Alcalde Luján at its head were:
- Achieving the inclusion of young people through on-the-job training.
- Promoting social dialogue, union democracy and true collective bargaining in accordance with the new labor model.
- Recovering the purchasing power of the minimum wages and incomes, to improve the quality of life of workers.
- Bringing dignity to the work arena and stimulating productivity by monitoring compliance of labor regulations.
- Enabling the insertion of unemployed people, workers in critical conditions of occupation and inactive people with availability for work into formal employment, with preferential attention to those who face barriers for having access to formal employment.
At the close of this publication, her replacement at the Department of Labor and Social Welfare has not yet been named.