Mexico: electrical workers continue protests

On Dec. 4 tens of thousands of laid-off Mexican electrical workers and their supporters again took to the streets of the capital to protest President Felipe Calder贸n Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10. The center-right government claims it took the step because the company was inefficient and was losing money; opponents say the government is seeking to privatize the LFC and to break the powerful independent Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), which represented the company’s 44,000 active employees and some 23,000 retirees.

Accompanied by unionists from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the Autonomous National University of Mexico Workers Union (STUNAM) and other unions, along with students and activists from grassroots organizations, the electrical workers held marches on different avenues鈥擳lalpan, Insurgentes, Paseo de la Reforma and Zaragoza鈥攅nding in an eight-hour rally at the Monument of the Revolution. The protest was called the “taking of Mexico City” to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the entrance of revolutionary heroes Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa into the capital.

STUNAM leader Agust铆n Rodr铆guez told the protesters that they might need to “discuss a general strike,” but SME general secretary Mart铆n Esparza indicated that the union and the government had resumed negotiations. He had met with governance undersecretary Ger贸nimo Guti茅rrez, and the government had agreed to extend Social Security to all the laid-off workers for one year, Esparza said. The benefits, which in Mexico include healthcare, were to expire in a week for some 20,000 laid-off LFC workers who had refused to sign up for the government’s compensation package.

The SME has proposed a five-member team to mediate future talks with the government, including Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) rector Jos茅 Narro Robles, National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) director general Enrique Villa Rivera, and Congress members from the three largest political parties. (La Jornada, Dec. 5; La Luz Es del Pueblo blog, Dec. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 6

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.

  1. Iraqi unionists support Mexican electrical workers
    From the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI), Oct. 20:

    FWCUI Solidarity with the Mexican Electricians’ Union
    We, members of Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) strongly oppose the liquidation of the public electricity company Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC) and its trade union, the Mexican Electricians’ Union (SME), an organization which has existed for nearly a century and which has stood out for its firm opposition to plans to privatize the public industries, and is an example of struggle to millions of workers in the country.

    The decree which liquidates LyFC, promoted by the Calder贸n administration, is one more in a series of measures to make the workers pay for the economic crisis of the capitalists; whether it be by raising taxes, reducing social expenditure (health, education housing, etc.) or closing down public enterprises.

    But just as the bourgeoisie is determined to place the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the workers, the working class is ready to launch a struggle to stop this. Three days after the decree of liquidation of LyFC, there have been demonstrations in support of the SME in seven Mexican states (even though in four of these the LyFC company does not provide any service). The PRD (opposition party) has joined the calls for mobilization and the UNT trade union, which brings together other sectors as telephone workers, has expressed itself in favour of a nationwide strike.

    The rank and file of the union are aware of the fact that to struggle is the only way. This conclusion is connecting with the mood of anger and discontent that exists throughout the country. The attack on the SME is bringing together the different sections that have been struggling since 2006 but were isolated.

    The way the Felipe Calder贸n government has proceeded has shown the flexibility of bourgeois legality, which resorts to any flimsy excuse to defend their capitalist interests. The state has set in motion all the means at its disposal against the union, but we know that we have the international solidarity of the working class to develop this struggle further.

    We, workers of Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) support the struggle of the SME and we oppose the closure of LyFC. We are not prepared to allow the rights of the working class to continue to be trampled on.

    Given all these abuses by the employers and at the same time the heroic struggle being pursued by these colleagues, the undersigned declare:

    1. The workers of the Mexican Electricians鈥 Union are not alone. Their struggle against the attacks of the bourgeoisie is the struggle of all workers in the world. And this we will demonstrate.

    2. We demand that the government of Felipe Calder贸n reverses immediately and unconditionally the decree of liquidation of the Luz y Fuerza del Centro company.

    3. We are in favor of a 24-hour general strike called by the leadership of the UNT, PRD and CND, as a viable and necessary method of struggle to stop this attack.

    4. We express our determination to take all kind of actions to show solidarity with our fellow EMS workers and strengthen their struggle.

    For the unity of the working class to defend their rights!

    The Strength of the Labor Movement Lies on Its Unity and Organization…
    Long live International Workers’ Solidarity…

    Sincerely,
    With regards:
    Akram Nadir (Union Organizer in Iraq and Kurdistan)
    International Representative of Federation of Workers’ Councils and
    Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)