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UPDATE 2-GM labor dispute in Mexico sparks worry from U.S. lawmakers, global unions

05/11/2021 16:59
UPDATE 2-GM labor dispute in Mexico sparks worry from U.S. lawmakers, global unions

Recasts first sentence with global labor groups pressuring GM, adds comments by labor groups, background

By Daina Beth Solomon and David Shepardson

- U.S. lawmakers joined global labor advocacy groups on Tuesday in putting pressure on General Motors Co GM.N to ensure worker rights at its Silao plant in Mexico, after the automaker's union there was accused of tampering with a worker vote.

Mexico's labor ministry has said that some ballots were destroyed during a union-led vote in April for workers to ratify their collective contract.

The vote is required under a Mexican labor reform to ensure workers are not bound to so-called protection contracts, which are signed between behind workers' backs and prioritize company interests.

Such votes are part of the broader effort underpinning promises in the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) free trade pact to uphold worker rights. nL1N2MX1UN

Hugo Varela, head of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) in Guanajuato state, which represents GM workers, said he did not have details on the vote.

He added that CTM had time to re-do the contract ratification vote before a 2023 deadline, and was committed to keeping jobs in Mexico.

U.S. Representatives Dan Kildee, Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, all Democrats, called on GM to answer questions about reported labor rights violations.

The largest U.S. automaker "has a responsibility to speak out against violations of labor and human rights abuses at the Silao GM plant," they said in a letter to GM Chief Executive Mary Barra.

GM said it condemned labor rights violations, and that it had hired a third-party firm to do "an independent and thorough review." The company also denied wrongdoing.

"We do not believe there was any GM involvement in the alleged violations," the company said in response to questions about the lawmakers' letter.

The vote came several days before GM said it would invest $1 billion in an electric vehicle manufacturing complex in Mexico, triggering criticism from the United Auto Workers.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Reuters separately this week that it was "concerned and is having appropriate discussions" about the allegedly fraudulent vote.

In addition, Geneva-based IndustriALL Global Unions and Toronto-based Unifor said in letters to GM President Mark Reuss last week that the incident appeared to violate the USMCA and urged GM to protect workers.

Unifor's president, Jerry Dias, expressed his "outrage" at the situation and said he would explore "all available avenues" to uphold worker rights in Mexico, including dispute resolution tools under the regional trade deal.

In a letter seen by Reuters, Reuss responded that GM condemns labor rights violations and would work with Mexican authorities to ensure a fair collective bargaining process.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City
Additional reporting by Sharay Angulo and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City, Ben Klayman in Detroit and David Shepardson in Washington
Editing by Christian Plumb and Matthew Lewis)

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