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200,000 march in support of Mexico’s SME workers and against privatization

Over 200,000 people took to the streets of Mexico City yesterday in anger over President Calderon’s midnight occupation, on October 10, of the various sites of Central Light and Power (Luz y Fuerza del Centro), central Mexico’s state-run electricity company. Calderon used 6,000 police officers and militarized federal police to carry out the illegal and unconstitutional takeover, which resulted in over 40,000 workers losing their jobs.

According to a November 3 report on the website of the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO): “The latest example of Calderón’s anti-worker bias is the takeover last month by federal agents and police of the country’s second largest electrical power distributor, Luz y Fuerza (Central Light and Power). Calderón used an executive decree to dissolve the utility, but, in doing so, he also fired the entire 44,000-person workforce and disbanded their union, the 95-year-old Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union (SME), a frequent critic of the government’s policies.

“The government has dissolved Luz y Fuerza, which provides electricity to Mexico City and several states in central Mexico, and turned its facilities over to the Federal Electrical Commission, the provider for the rest of the country,” continued the report. “Union leaders see this as a preparatory step toward the sale of the utilities to a private company.”

This “outrageous act of union busting,” in the words of United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, has sparked outrage across the world. Canadian trade unions and social justice groups, including the Council of Canadians, who met in Montreal on November 6 to discuss alternatives to North American energy integration, sent the following letter in support of the protesting SME workers:


Montreal, November 10, 2009

President Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa,

Last Friday, November 6, 2009, we met in Montreal, to follow up on the agreements we made with trade unions and social organizations from Mexico and the United States during the Third North American Encounter of Organizations from the Energy Sector held in Mexico City from the 16th to the 18th of March, 2009. We trade unions and social networks involved in energy in Quebec and Canada affirm the following with respect to recent events in Mexico:

1. We condemn the actions of your government on October 10th and 11th when you ordered the takeover by force through the intervention of federal police of the installations of the Central Light and Power Company (Luz y Fuerza del Centro), in order to later issue a decree announcing the liquidation of that company which is protected by the Constitution and without the necessary Congressional authorization.

2. We condemn your government’s decree liquidating the collective agreement and the very existence of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME)) as well as the dismissal without due process nor previous approval by a judicial authority of more than 44,000 workers leaving them unemployed and putting at risk more than 15,000 pensioners.

3. We denounce how the unilateral action of your government creates the conditions for joining the installations and assets of Central Light and Power with those of the Federal Electricity Commission (Comisión Federal de Electricidad) in order to hand over the entire industry to the private sector.

4. We consider this sequence of events to be an attack against and an attempt to eliminate one of the most important democratic unions in Mexico as well as a transgression against workers’ rights and the public sector.

5. We denounce how your government’s action violate international rights recognized by Mexico with respect to the right to stable employment, the prohibition of arbitrary dismissal without cause, social security, human rights, and workers’ dignity as recognized by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights. They also damage the rights to employment, trade union freedom and collective agreements enshrined in the International Labour Organization.

In the case of the conflict with the SME and its affiliates, but also in past cases involving the miners’ union and others, we believe that the rule of law has clearly been infringed, aggravating the social discontent produced by the current economic crisis.

We call for the reestablishment of the rule of law and we demand that your government:

• Without any delay withdraw the liquidation decree and order the reopening of the public company Central Light and Power as well as the immediate withdrawal of the Federal Police and the army from its installations;

• Withdraw the personnel who are illegally working in the installations of Central Light and Power;

• Guarantee the return of the workers who are members of the SME to their work places respecting their collective agreement which we consider to continue to be legally binding;

• Fully respect the employment and labour rights of the employees of the company;

• Immediately and unconditionally recognize the legitimately elected executive of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), and respect all aspects of the union’s autonomy;

• Establish a space for social dialogue consistent with the Constitution and international practice in order to arrive at a negotiated solution to the conflict.

The North American trade union and social movements that have come together since August of 2007 to coordinate struggles with respect to the energy sector support access to energy as a fundamental human right of our peoples. Privatization is not the way to achieve this right. In each of our countries we are promoting policies in accordance with the environmental and climate change challenges our societies face. We affirm that the protection and promotion of trade union freedom and the rights of association and negotiation are indispensable for confronting the actual challenges in the energy sector.

It is in this spirit that we join the struggle of the SME and we support the Paro Cívico Nacional (National Civic Strike) planned for November 11, 2009 to counteract the destructive policies of your government.


John Dillon Common Frontiers Canada
Pierre-Yves Serinet Quebec Network on Hemispheric Integration (RQIC)
Lucien Royer Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), Director of International Department
Teresa Healy CLC
Stan Marshall Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Managing Director
Richard Perreault CUPE local 1500 – Hydro Québec / Right to Energy SOS-Future
Corina Crawley CUPE
Normand Pépin Central of Democratic Unions (CSD)
Marie-Dominik Langlois Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)
Joseph Gargiso Communications, Energy & Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP),
Administrative Vice-President, Québec
Fred Wilson CEP, Assistant to the President
Jim Britton CEP, Western Vice President
Glen Sonier CEP, National Rep., Sarnia
Ervan Cronk CEP, Atlantic Vice President
Daniel Cloutier CEP, National Rep., Montreal
Sambann Honn CEP, Local 121 (Shell)
Andy Ross COPE, Local 378, President
Stuart Trew Council of Canadians
Denise Gagnon Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ)
Steven Shrybman Sack, Goldblatt & Mitchell
Simon Berlin SEPB-Quebec, Assistant Director
Ken Neumann United Steelworkers – Canada (USW), National Director
Charles Campbell USW – Canada

c.c.p. Lic. Fernando Gómez Mont, Secretario de Gobernación
c.c.p. Lic. Francisco Javier Lozano Alarcón, Secretario del Trabajo y Previsión Social
c.c.p. Lic. Francisco Ramírez Acuña, Presidente de la Mesa Directiva de la Cámara de Diputados del
H. Congreso de la Unión
c.c.p. Lic. Carlos Navarrete Ruiz, Presidente de la Mesa Directiva de la Cámara de Senadores del
H. Congreso de la Unión
c.c.p. H. Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia, Ministro Presidente de la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación
c.c.p. Francisco J. Barrio Terrazas, Mexican Ambassador to Canada
c.c.p. H. Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs – Canada
c.c.p. H. Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour – Canada
c.c.p. H. Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade – Canada
c.c.p. Guillermo E. Rishchynski, Canada’s Ambassador to the United Mexican States
c.c.p. Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME)