International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions Condemns Repression of Workers by Mexican Government, Grupo Mexico

6 September 2010 ICEM InBrief Mexico
Grupo Mexico reacted with violence to a 20 August worker ballot at the Esqueda smelter in Sonora State, where workers voted to end the protection contract with a company union, and re-join Los Mineros Section 207. The Calderón government again supplied the police units, who moved into the mine, aggressively intimidating workers.

The police attack occurred on the morning of 31 August, when over 1,000 heavily armed federal and state units occupied the smelter and surrounding area.

The company union was imposed on Esqueda’s workers three years ago through the use of firings, threats, and repression. Roheri Cruz Sanchez, leader of Section 207, reports that the company union systematically ignored workers’ concerns, signed a ‘protection’ collective agreement without consulting workers, and never even revealed the terms of the collective agreement to workers.

Grupo Mexico has already begun sacking all of the workers involved in resisting the police siege.

“This blatant act of repression clearly puts Grupo Mexico’s anti-union vendetta ahead of the company’s interest in having stable labor relations,” declared Leo W. Gerard, USW international president.

Following the international outcry over the violent police attack on Cananea’s striking miners in February this year, the Calderón government and Grupo Mexico’s continuation of its brutal repression of workers’ rights is extremely concerning.

As efforts continue to free the trapped miners in Northern Chile have received special attention from the country’s president Sebastian Piñera, Los Mineros renewed calls for a full governmental inquiry into the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster, 19 February 2006, which killed 65 miners. The decision to reissue the demand for justice for the 65 killed miners was taken by the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Mineworkers, known as Los Mineros, on 24 August.

Pasta de Conchos Widow

There has never been a criminal conviction over the Pasta de Conchos disaster, described by Los Mineros General Secretary Napoleón Gomez as “industrial homicide”. The parallels between the aftermath of the Chile mine collapse and that of Pasta de Conchos are striking, while national and local government came to the San Esteban Primera mine to support rescue efforts, Mexican presidents Fox and Calderón have never appeared at Pasta de Conchos, neither has Germán Larrea CEO of Grupo Mexico.

The most poignant difference in rescue efforts for Los Mineros and the families of the 65 dead miners at Pasta de Conchos, is that at the Chile mine accident the trapped workers were found seventeen days after the collapse of the mine shaft, while rescue efforts were halted after five days in Mexico, when families were only a few metres away from their trapped loved ones. As Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government halted rescue efforts, and disconnected the electricity making any continuation of the search impossible, they made it impossible to carry out a proper investigation into the cause of the mine collapse, believed by many to be illegal safety conditions in the mine.

Sixty-three of the 65 mineworkers killed at Pasta de Conchos are still buried in the mine. Their widows and families have never been properly compensated.

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