Transforming employment relations

The panorama of a greater activism by unions in the country demands from companies a strategic plan for strengthening relations with their workers that includes strategic communication, training for middle management, and crisis management.

Note published on June 4, 2024 in Capital section, by Blanya Correal Sarmiento


Several important numbers frame the current labor outlook in Mexico. On one hand, according to the Inegi [National Institute of Statistics and Geography], 12.8% of formal workers are affiliated to a union. On the other hand, the certificates of representativeness are increasing at a fast rate; in 2023 they totaled 6,279 and between January and April of 2024, 3,946 have been registered according to information provided by the Federal Center for Conciliation and Labor Registration. That is, if the trend continues, there will be 80% more applications than the previous year.

In this same sense, we see a fundamental change in the union map; traditional federations are fragmented and seeking to strengthen their structures; a rapid surge of independent unionism with more radical flags and more aggressive mechanisms.

And, lastly, more conflictivity and pressure in salary revisions which, at the close of February of 2024 and according to figures provided by the STPS [Department of Labor and Social Welfare], registered a nominal increase of 9.2%, which clearly demonstrates that inflation has ceased to be the governing parameter and that now the pressure of the consultation and its consequence of a strike are making the rules at the negotiation table.

Faced with this panorama, a significant transformation in labor relations is required, it does not suffice to think that this can be achieved with a good work climate, as workers are exposed to multiple internal and external factors that can have an influence on them, putting companies at risk.

Therefore, we need to concentrate on four key elements for the strategic labor plan:

» 1. Communicate what is truly needed

We cannot leave this important labor tool to chance. We companies have to take leadership of the message map, sound out the physical and the digital conversation, design effective means that truly reach the worker, but, above all, we have to ensure that we fill the spaces with the information that will generate the action we expect.

It is worrying how, in many salary revisions, the responsibility of communicating the agreements reached on the table is “left” to the union   And it is worrying because, to start with, this represents a challenge to them, not only because of the low levels of representativeness, but also because the reality of the business is rarely integrated.

» 2. Training the middle positions

It is necessary to prepare middle management to lead with effective practices that confirm the messages with consistent actions. First, ensuring that the supervisors themselves have proper work conditions, balanced hours, proper pay and a positive treatment, so they can also do the same with their work teams.

Not only do we have to give them leadership courses, but we also have to modify the supervision routines so that they include practices and tools that ensure a connection with and attention to people’s concerns, without paternalism.

» 3. Reviews focused on productivity

To achieve this, the plan needs to be developed at the moment that the previous review ends. Key messages must be planted, the need to improve processes must be proven day by day and, at the same time, the worker’s expectations and needs must be understood.

The negotiation plan is continuous and requires strategic work on the definition of  the budget, the company’s “sheet”, the indicators that support these goals and the preparation of the team that will participate on the table.

» 4. Prepare for the crisis

It is important to have permanent monitoring of the environment, but also to develop internal thermometers that serve to anticipate conflictivity and, in response to them, to develop very clear prevention and action protocols that guarantee that every person knows their role in face of the situation and has the capability of facing it.

Labor relations are, in essence, human relations and, therefore, they require comprehensive and conscious management, arising from the definition of the business objective in terms of work, that is, what is the goal in terms of the relationship with the workers, what are the principles that guide the day-to-day life, the indicators that monitor compliance and the consequences associated with them.

Transforming labor relations is not only a responsibility of the business in order to guarantee its survival, but also an opportunity for the development and growth of the people and work teams to achieve better and safer results.

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