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UPDATE 4-Mexico scraps tainted GM union vote, U.S. lawmakers warn of labor abuses

05/11/2021 16:59
UPDATE 4-Mexico scraps tainted GM union vote, U.S. lawmakers warn of labor abuses

Recasts; adds details from U.S. lawmakers

By Daina Beth Solomon and David Shepardson

- Mexican authorities on Tuesday ordered the General Motors Co union in the city of Silao to repeat a worker vote following pressure from U.S. lawmakers for the automaker to address alleged abuses that could potentially violate a new trade deal.

Mexico's labor ministry said it found "serious irregularities" in last month's vote, which is required under a Mexican labor reform to ensure workers are not bound to contracts that are signed behind their backs and protect company interests.

GM's union must hold a new vote within 30 days, the ministry said.

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

U.S. representatives Dan Kildee, Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, all Democrats, earlier on Tuesday called on GM to answer questions about potential abuses and said press reports indicated potential USMCA 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 GM.N has denied wrongdoing and said it condemned labor rights violations. It also said it had hired a third-party firm to review the matter.

Hugo Varela, head of the Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) in Guanajuato state, which represents GM workers, could not be reached for comment on the labor ministry's statement.

He previously said that CTM was committed to complying with the law and keeping jobs in Mexico.

A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office declined to comment on the Mexican labor ministry statement.

The disputed vote at Silao, which employs some 6,000 people, 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 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.

(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 Grant McCool and Stephen Coates)

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