Section 7. Worker Rights
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
On November 21, the single general minimum wage rose from 80.04 pesos per day ($4.76) to 88.36 pesos per day ($5.26), short of the official poverty line of 95.24 pesos per day ($5.67). Most formal-sector workers received between one and three times the minimum wage. The tripartite National Minimum Wage Commission, whose labor representatives largely represented protection unions and their interests, is responsible for establishing minimum salaries but continued to block increases that kept pace with inflation.
The law sets six eight-hour days and 48 hours per week as the legal workweek. Any work over eight hours in a day is considered overtime, for which a worker is to receive double pay. After accumulating nine hours of overtime in a week, a worker earns triple the hourly wage. The law prohibits compulsory overtime. The law provides for eight paid public holidays and one week of paid annual leave after completing one year of work. The law requires employers to observe occupational safety and health regulations, issued jointly by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the Institute for Social Security. Legally mandated joint management and labor committees set standards and are responsible for overseeing workplace standards in plants and offices. Individual employees or unions may complain directly to inspectors or safety and health officials. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.
The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing labor laws and conducting inspections at workplaces. In 2015, the most recent year for which data were available, there were 946 inspectors nationwide. This was sufficient to enforce compliance, and the ministry carried out inspections of workplaces throughout the year, using a questionnaire and other means to identify victims of labor exploitation. Penalties for violations of wage, hours of work, or occupational safety and health laws range from 17,330 pesos ($1,030) to 335,940 pesos ($20,020) but generally were not sufficient to deter violations. Through its DECLARALAB self-evaluation tool, the ministry provided technical assistance to almost 4,000 registered workplaces to help them meet occupational safety and health regulations.
According to labor rights NGOs, employers in all sectors sometimes used the illegal “hours bank” approach–requiring long hours when the workload is heavy and cutting hours when it is light–to avoid compensating workers for overtime. This was a common practice in the maquila sector, in which employers forced workers to take leave at low moments in the production cycle and obliged them to work in peak seasons, including the Christmas holiday period, without the corresponding triple pay mandated by law for voluntary overtime on national holidays. Additionally, many companies evaded taxes and social security payments by employing workers informally or by submitting falsified payroll records to the Mexican Social Security Institute. In 2013, the latest year for which such data are available, INEGI estimated 59 percent of the workforce was engaged in the informal economy.
Observers from grassroots labor rights groups, international NGOs, and multinational apparel brands reported that employers throughout export-oriented supply chains were increasingly using methods of hiring that deepened the precariousness of work for employees. The most common practice reported was that of manufacturers hiring workers on one- to three-month contracts, and then waiting for a period of days before rehiring them on another short-term contract, to avoid paying severance and prevent workers from accruing seniority, while maintaining the exact number of workers needed for fluctuating levels of production. This practice violates Federal Labor Law and significantly impacted workers’ social and economic rights, including elimination of social benefits and protections, restrictions on worker’s rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and minimal ability for workers, especially women, to manage their family responsibilities. Observers noted it also increased the likelihood of work-related illness and injury. Combined with outsourcing practices that made it difficult for workers to identify their legally registered employer, workers were also more likely to be denied access to justice.
Private recruitment agencies and individual recruiters violated the rights of temporary migrant workers recruited in the country to work abroad, primarily in the United States. Although the law requires these agencies to be registered, they often were unregistered. The Labor Ministry’s registry was outdated and limited in scope. Although a few large recruitment firms were registered, the registry included many defunct and nonexistent midsized firms, and few if any of the many small, independent recruiters. Although the government did not actively monitor or control the recruitment process, it reportedly was responsive in addressing complaints. There were also reports that registered agencies defrauded workers with impunity. Some temporary migrant workers were regularly charged illegal recruitment fees. According to a 2013 study conducted by the Migrant Worker Rights Center, 58 percent of 220 applicants interviewed had paid recruitment fees; one-half did not receive a job contract and took out loans to cover recruitment costs; and 10 percent paid fees for nonexistent jobs. The recruitment agents placed those who demanded their rights on blacklists and barred them from future employment opportunities.
News reports indicated there were poor working conditions in some maquiladoras. These included low wages, contentious labor management, long work hours, unjustified dismissals, the lack of social security benefits, unsafe workplaces, and the lack of freedom of association. Many women working in the industry reported suffering some form of abuse. Most maquilas hired employees through outsourcing with few social benefits.