TORONTO, Nov. 14, 2017 /CNW/ - As NAFTA renegotiations shift to Mexico City, the United Steelworkers (USW) is calling on the Canadian government to intervene in a potentially violent crackdown on labour rights at a Canadian-owned mine in Mexico.
"The situation developing at the Media Luna mining project in the state of Guerrero is extremely troubling. It demands the Canadian government's intervention to defend the democratic rights of workers and communities affected by a Canadian mining company's operations," said Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director for Canada.
The Media Luna mine is owned by Canadian company Torex Gold Resources. Workers at the site are on strike as they attempt to join a legitimate, democratic union that will defend their rights and interests. Local communities, which also are raising troubling issues regarding the impact of the Torex operations, are supporting the workers.
However, the Torex Gold subsidiary, with the apparent support of Mexican government officials, is opposing the miners' attempts to join the democratic National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Allied Workers of the Mexican Republic, known as Los Mineros, led by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia.
On Monday, Nov. 13, armed police forces converged on the site in what workers and observers fear could lead to another violent crackdown on fundamental labour and human rights in Mexico.
Workers at the Media Luna mine went on strike after the Torex Gold subsidiary signed an agreement with one of Mexico's so-called "protection unions" that don't legitimately represent workers. It is common in Mexico for companies to sign agreements with protection unions without the input or knowledge of affected workers. Such contracts are illegal in Canada and the U.S.
The USW in Canada and the U.S. is supporting the striking Mexican miners and their efforts to join the Los Mineros union. The USW and Los Mineros have had a strategic alliance since 2005.
"The Canadian government claims that it wants 'progressive labour standards' in a new NAFTA to improve wages and working conditions for Mexican workers. As NAFTA renegotiations shift to Mexico this week, this is an opportune moment for the Canadian government to back up its words with meaningful action," Neumann said.
"This is a blatant example of the repression of fundamental rights at the operations of a Canadian company. We call on the Canadian government to intervene with the company and with Mexican authorities to ensure a peaceful resolution to this conflict that respects the workers' right to choose their union. We also call on the Canadian ambassador to Mexico to meet with officials of the Los Mineros union."
The USW also has raised these issues in a message sent to Canada's lead negotiator of the labour chapter in the NAFTA renegotiations.
Torex Gold is the most-recent Canadian mining company operating in Mexico to be associated with labour rights violations.
In early October of this year, four Mexican miners died of gas poisoning at the La Encantada silver mine owned by Vancouver-based First Majestic. In a news release the company appeared to blame the victims, stating they "were carrying all required protection equipment … But sadly did not use the equipment."
Workers and residents in Durango, Mexico, have been locked in a multi-year conflict with Canadian miner Excellon Resources over labour, environmental and community rights related to the company's La Platosa mine.
The USW is part of a broad-based civil society coalition calling on the Canadian government to establish an independent ombudsperson to investigate human rights complaints associated with Canadian mining companies' global operations.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Ken Neumann, USW National Director for Canada, 416-544-5951; Mark Rowlinson, Assistant to the USW National Director, 416-544-5952, 647-231-5983, [email protected]; Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, [email protected]