US says workers’ vote at GM’s Mexican plant shows bargaining benefits

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai said on Friday that the vote by General Motors workers at a pickup truck plant in Mexico to approve a new contract “demonstrates the significant benefits of meaningful collective bargaining.” .

This month, Reuters reported that GM had agreed to an 8.5% wage hike with a new independent union at its plant in the central Mexican city of Silao. Tai said that under the labor protections of the USMCA trade agreement, “workers no longer have to tolerate contracts negotiated behind their backs and have the right to vote on a deal once it’s negotiated.” .

Mexico’s federal labor center said the contract was approved by an 87% vote, while the labor ministry said the contract would go into effect in June.

GM said that under Mexican law, it must wait for an official decision from the Federal Labor Conciliation and Registration Center to consider the process complete.

In May 2021, the USTR invoked the powers of the USMCA and asked Mexico to investigate alleged abuses at the Silao plant after a union contract vote in April 2021.

These powers “helped workers get to this vote, and the United States will continue to work with Mexico to protect workers’ rights,” Tai said.

The agreement with SINTTIA also marks the first major increase since the start of the USMCA.

Following a vote closely watched by US officials, SINTTIA became the first independent union in the history of the GM Silao plant this year, in an initial test of USMCA labor rules .

The pay deal appears to top others recently reached by independent unions in Mexico’s auto sector.

This year, Nissan agreed to raise wages by 6.5%, while last year Volkswagen agreed to a 5.5% increase.

GM won key changes at the USMCA that allowed it to continue building hundreds of thousands of high-performance pickup trucks in Mexico for export to the United States each year.

Under NAFTA, Mexican factory wages stagnated for more than two decades, in part because of a union system that prevented workers from organizing freely.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Mark Potter and David Gregorio)