Transparency & accountability

Changes proposed to nation’s labor laws

Mexico’s Secretary of Labor has announced plans to change the country’s current labor laws in order to boost Mexico’s global competitiveness, which has been lagging for years. Currently, the country ranks #60 for competitiveness overall, but #115 in terms of its labor competitiveness. The World Economic Forum determines this ranking based on the flexibility in hiring, firing, wage-setting, as well as productivity, brain drain, employment of women, and other aspects.

Some of the original proposals called for unions to make their financial records public, would eliminate the secret ballot for union elections, make it harder to go on strike, and facilitate negotiating contracts. However, it is unclear how many of these will appear in a final bill, if one gets passed. In any case, changing contract laws could affect the country’s formal job market significantly.

Changing current regulations regarding hourly wages could help incorporate Mexico’s vast informal job market into the formal sector. Currently, contracts for hourly wages usually require workers to be hired at least eight hours a day, or be paid per day. However, people are often hired to do small odd jobs lasting only a few hours. Meeting an eight-hour or full-day requirement is impractical for many employers, so informal agreements are often the norm. The proposed changes would allow individuals to contract for as little as one or two hours of work.

By incorporating the informal job market, the formal job market could be more flexible and efficient. According to some, addressing labor issues has become more urgent for President Calderón. The term-limited, conservative president has been unable to pass major economic reforms during his three years in office. For example, his attempt to allow more private investment in the state-owned petroleum company, PEMEX, was unsuccessful. He has made some market reforms by changing the tax system, privatizing pensions for federal employees, and shutting down a public electrical company (Luz y Fuerza del Centro) infamous for its inefficiency, monopoly-like status, and resilience to change.

The proposed labor reforms would not involve changing the Constitution, which discusses the rights of workers, but would require Congressional support. This could be impeded by the PRI party, which (together with an allied party) has a majority in Congress. The PRI’s Secretary General, Jesús Murillo Karam, made clear that labor reform is not a priority for the party and that they would examine the President’s proposals carefully.


Análisis Político. “Obstruye PRI apertura sindical.” Reforma. Febrero 15, 2010.

El Financiero en línea. “Presentará STPS propuesta de reforma laboral en actual periodo de sesiones.” El Financiero en línea. Febrero 10, 2010.

Radioinformaremosmexico. “La reforma laboral oficial ya fue pactada con CTM y CT, denuncian UNT y juristas.” La Jornada. Febrero 15, 2010.

Velázquez, Lilia González. “Aprobar reforma laboral traería competitividad.” El Economista. Febrero 4, 2010.

1 thought on “Changes proposed to nation’s labor laws”

  1. The Labor Law Reform package proposed by the Calderon administration forms part of its assault on labor unions, workers’ rights and human rights. The intent is to continue to weaken unions’ bargaining position and to reduce the wages and standard of living of Mexican workers, so that employers can compete with other low wage countries even more effectively. The Labor Law Reform should be seen in the context of the Mexican government assault on the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) and the Mine and Metal Workers (SNTMMRM). Unions and workers in other countries, and all concerned with human rights and workers’ rights issues should help the Mexican people resist this further assault on their security, well being, dignity, and liberty.

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