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Mexico factory owners plead for president to intervene in border strikes

MEXICO-POLITICS-LOPEZ OBRADOR
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, shown in Badiraguato, Mexico, pledged during his campaign to improve wages and working conditions.
(Alfredo Estrella / AFP/Getty Images)
Bloomberg

A group representing maquiladora owners is calling on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to intervene in widespread strikes that followed his decree to double minimum wages at the Mexican border with the U.S.

Index, as the group is known, published full-page newspaper ads and took to Twitter after workers at the maquiladoras — foreign-owned factories at the U.S.-Mexico border — demanded a 20% raise and a 32,000-peso ($1,662) bonus and walked off their jobs in January in the border city of Matamoros.

Since the leftist president took power Dec. 1, strikes have broken out in several states, including a blockade of trains by teachers in Michoacan that was unrelated to the maquiladora crisis. During his campaign, Lopez Obrador pledged to double the minimum wage nationwide over several years and to improve conditions for workers and their representation in unions.

Workers are dissatisfied, according to reports, because although the higher minimum wage would benefit the poorest of the workers, it’s less than what many maquiladora workers in Matamoros make. And they believe their wages should increase to reflect the increase in the minimum wage.

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“Immediate intervention is of vital importance to control the crisis that Matamoros is living through,” Index said on its Twitter account. In a two-page ad in El Financiero newspaper, the group said the government couldn’t be “silent” and allow new labor practices to surprise the industrial sector without warning.

With employees getting the upper hand in several labor disputes, strikes have spread from maquiladoras, many of them producing auto parts, to companies such as Arca Continental, the world’s second-largest Coca-Cola bottler. At least one auto-parts maker shuttered its plant in Matamoros because of the strike, according to local news reports.

The strike at Arca won’t have a significant impact on the company, as it affects only one of its 43 facilities, representing 2% of its operations, Actinver analysts wrote in a research note, recommending investors buy the stock. Arca will also benefit from tax breaks at the border that Lopez Obrador decreed along with the wage hikes, Actinver said.


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