“The new union celebration in Mexico has already started and everyone is searching for their seat”

Note published on May 12 in El EconomistaCapital Humano [Human Capital] Section by Gerardo Hernández.



“We are seeing a very different union activity in relation to what we had in the past. The celebration is on, and everyone is searching for their seat as best they can”, stated Blanya Correal, director of the Labor Engineering Division of the D&M Abogados Firm. The specialist pointed out that the new rules of collective bargaining have led to significant changes in this area of the world of labor in the country.

During the law firm’s Collective Bargaining Agreements on the Crosshairs webinar, Blanya Correal shared an analysis that reveals the growth of union activity in entities in which activity was habitually low. “An interesting phenomenon is taking place; states like Baja California, which were not traditionally unionized and other areas in the north of the country are now showing an important presence in certificates of representativeness.”

For now, according to the analysis prepared by D&M Abogados, the states with the highest number of certificates of representativeness, a sign of union activity, are the State of Mexico, Mexico City, Jalisco, Nuevo León, and Querétaro.

The certificate of representativeness is a requirement that must be complied with by unions in order to demand the right to obtain certification for handling a collective bargaining agreement and having the capacity to negotiate with the company on behalf of the union members. It is one of the new rules for collective bargaining introduced with the labor reform of 2019. In order to obtain this certification, they must have the support of 30% of the workers, as a minimum.

“Union activation is not being put in motion by sectors as much as by states and regions”, the specialist explained. This scenario, she added, can be associated to how expensive it can be for unions to have administrative structures for collective bargaining agreements, because, these days, it does involve generating a connection with the workers. “Investing in a geographically dispersed area is expensive, and the best strategy is concentrating all of the resources on a single industrial park or on a single region.”

According to Enrique García Conde, a partner at the law firm, this behavior represents a challenge for companies, even if some Collective Bargaining Agreements (CCTs) have been terminated because they were not legitimized, as union activity could return to their work centers at any time.

“I thought that some organizations that had not legitimized would proceed at a slower pace, but the phenomenon has evolved differently, and it is not limited only to industrial zones. Suddenly, in small places with a particular industry, leaders that document themselves and see how easy it is to form a union emerge and, complying with the requirements, a union is formed”, he explained.

The first day of May was the deadline for union associations to register consultations that were pending for the legitimation of collective bargaining agreements, a mandatory procedure that consists of submitting the contents of the agreement to a personal, free, direct, and secret voting process. CCTs that were not registered have already been canceled, a situation that has opened a scenario for new players to seek the support of the workers for a new negotiation.

Another phenomenon that has been seen after the labor reform of 2019, added Blanya Correal, is that of the failed attempts for legitimating CCTs. “We saw a growth in terms of the number of collective bargaining agreements that were submitted to voting by the workers and failed to have a positive result.”

In March of 2023, for example, a little over 200 legitimation consultations were held in which union members rejected their CCT. And while this might seem like a small number, the specialist on labor relationships explained, it reflects how little ingrained in union life workers are, which has made way for the growth of independent organizations.

Better salaries, the result of legitimation.

According to the analysis made by D&M Abogados, in the first quarter of the year, salary adjustments for unionized personnel were almost three points above the inflation level, something that was not seen during the course of 2022, a year with a significant rise in consumer prices.

From the perspective of Blanya Correal, this can be related to the intention of some companies of “trying to dress the union up” in order to have influence on the legitimation of the CCT. The second factor is the pressure exerted by independent unions. “Some associated unions assumed authority as if they had been possessed by an independent union.”

And even though achieving wage increases above inflation is a positive thing for the workers, the specialist considers that it is a phenomenon that must be carefully considered. “The worrying element for me is: how sustainable is this process? Because if they first year they ask me for a diamond ring, and the second year for a diamond necklace, I do not know what diamond object they will be asking me for on the third year in order to maintain the acceptance of the workers.”

“We can believe that this only happens at the neighbor’s house and that we need not worry and that we can continue to use the same policy for increasing wage increases but, in truth, these new standards actually become entrenched and generate expectations and unease among the workers. In recent weeks we have seen workcenters that have been affected, because other companies around their industrial park are progressing at a different pace in the review of their collective bargaining agreements and in the end, the time will come for them to do this”, she shared.

In this sense, she believes that it is probable that, as the new rules of collective bargaining permeate the labor market, CCT reviews and the management of new working conditions will be more complex for companies. “Now more than ever, communication channels with the workers must be properly oiled and we must anticipate the risks. This cannot be achieved based on a hunch, we need reliable information in order to make strategic plans.”

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