TORONTO, July 5, 2012 /CNW/ - North American labour and civil society groups will be watching closely today to see if Canadian mining company Excellon Resources allows workers at its silver mine in Mexico to have a free and democratic vote to join a union.
Workers at Excellon's La Platosa Mine in Durango, Mexico are voting today to select a union to represent them and administer a collective bargaining agreement with Excellon subsidiary Servicios Mineros San Pedro S.A. de C.V.
The vote takes place within a context of systematic labour and human rights violations affecting the La Platosa Mine workers and the surrounding community.
Since they affiliated to Mexico's National Union of Mine, Metal and Steelworkers (Los Mineros) in 2010, the workers have suffered oppression, intimidation and unfair dismissals intended to stop the organizing process and prevent true union representation that would defend their rights.
The La Platosa workers are supported by Canadian unions, including the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Canadian Labour Congress. They also are supported by human rights organizations including Mining Watch and the Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), a Mexican human rights group that has organized an international group of observers to monitor today's vote.
"The United Steelworkers calls on Excellon to allow a free and fair vote," said USW Canadian National Director Ken Neumann.
"Since Excellon began operations at La Platosa, workers have been denied fair wages, profit sharing and life insurance," Neumann said. "They have worked in conditions that affect their health and put their lives at risk. Workers who have challenged these abuses have been unlawfully fired. It's time to put a stop to these abuses."
Workers and communal landowners from La Platosa travelled to Canada in May, speaking at Excellon's shareholders meeting and filing a complaint against the company with Canadian authorities under the Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
"Because Excellon is a Canadian company, our government has a special responsibility to ensure that it does not interfere with its workers' rights to organize and to democratically choose their representatives," said Neumann.
Three unions are on the ballot for today's vote by the La Platosa Mine workers, including Section 309 of Los Mineros. The other two organizations are regarded by labour experts in Canada and the U.S. as company-controlled unions.
Yesterday, the President of the Durango Conciliation and Arbitration Board, which will oversee today's election, blocked an effort by one of the company unions to cancel the vote. The Board also rejected an attempt by Excellon to have the vote take place inside the mine.
"This is the first union election in Mexico since the country's presidential vote last Sunday," noted Ken Neumann. "This vote will tell us whether Mexico is moving forward to allow democratic unions or returning to the corruption of the past."
Section 309 of Los Mineros held a legal work stoppage at the La Platosa Mine on July 23, 2011, to try to force the company to sign a contract. On August 18, 2011, in the presence of Durango state government officials, Excellon agreed to recognize the existence of the union and to sign a contract. Despite this agreement, the company then signed a contract with the "Adolfo Lopez Mateos" union, regarded as a company union, without the knowledge of mine workers.
For further information:
Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951
Benjamin Davis, USW Director of International Affairs, +1-412-562-2501 (w), +1-202-550-3729 (cell), [email protected], Skype: bendavis
Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, [email protected].