Mexico's first comprehensive labor law was promulgated in 1931. The Federal Labor Act of 1970 authorizes the government to regulate all labor contracts and work conditions, including minimum wages, work hours, holidays, paid vacations, employment of women and minors, collective bargaining and strikes, occupational hazards, and profit sharing. The act sets the minimum employment age for children at fourteen years. Children fifteen years old can work but are restricted from certain jobs and have special legal protections and shorter working hours than adults. Medium and large commercial and manufacturing enterprises generally observe child labor laws strictly, although small shops and informal enterprises often do not. Although the law mandates a minimum wage, noncompliance ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent among employers of urban workers and reaches 80 percent in the countryside. Industrial safety laws often are loosely observed in practice, especially in the heavy industry and construction sectors.
The maximum legal workweek is forty-eight hours, and the maximum workday is eight hours. Industrial workers generally work the maximum number of hours per week, whereas office workers typically work forty or forty-four hours. The maximum workweek consists of either six eight-hour day shifts, six seven-hour night shifts, or six seven-and-a-half hour mixed shifts. Employers are required to pay double-time for overtime of up to three hours per day, and they cannot require workers to work overtime more than three times in one week. Each employee has the right to one free day per week, five paid holidays every year, and six to eight days of vacation during each full year of employment. Workers also are entitled to a share of their employers' annual profits.
More than 90 percent of production workers in industrial enterprises employing more than twenty-five workers belong to labor unions. Relatively few craft or professional workers are organized. Because almost half of all Mexican workers were either unemployed or underemployed and therefore not organizable, Mexico ranked in the early 1990s as a country with a highly organized labor force. The plant or workplace union is the basic unit of Mexican labor organization. Local units (secciones
) are federated either into national unions (sindicatos
) or local, regional (intrastate), or state federations. Occasionally these federations join in nationwide confederations. The CTM is the country's largest labor organization. Its secretary general in 1994 was the long-serving Fidel Velásquez. The CTM women's affiliate is the Workers' Federation of Women's Organizations (Federación Obrera de Organizaciones Femininas). Other prominent union federations include the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación Regional de Obreros Mexicanos), the Revolutionary Confederation of Mexican Workers and Peasants (Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos), the National Federation of Independent Unions (Federacíon Nacional de Sindicatos Independientes), and the Federation of Unions of Workers in the Service of the State (Federación de Sindicatos de Trabajadores al Servicio del Estado). Most of these federations are affiliated with the Congress of Labor (Congreso del Trabajo), which represents 85 percent of all unionized workers.
Most Mexican labor unions have strong ties to the PRI. In the 1930s and 1940s, organized labor became an integral component of the regime. The official unions facilitated Mexico's dramatic postwar economic growth by accepting labor wage increases that did not exceed productivity gains, thus eliminating a major source of inflation. The unions also discouraged industrial conflict, which helped to foster a receptive climate for foreign investment. Unions close to the PRI--especially the CTM--used both coercion and bribery to restrain wage demands. The absence of meaningful union democracy made it hard for the union rank and file to press independently for wage increases. During the 1970s, an increasing number of militant union movements broke away from the control of traditional union bosses, winning considerable autonomy over hiring and firing decisions, internal labor market operations, line speeds, and other working conditions. The government's efforts during the 1980s to promote greater productivity and efficiency in both the public and private sectors led to the reversal of many of these gains. Industrial reorganizations and downsizing resulted in massive layoffs and numerous labor concessions to management regarding work practices.
President Salinas further weakened the traditional unions during his incumbency. In some cases, he forced unions to negotiate at the plant level rather than nationwide. Shortly after taking office, he weakened the official oil workers' union by having its powerful and corrupt chief, Joaquín Hernández Galicia, arrested on corruption and murder charges. Salinas also undercut the 800,000-member official public schoolteachers' union, the National Union of Education Workers (Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación), by transferring authority over education from the central government to the states. By doing so, he restricted the union's power by forcing it to negotiate separate contracts with each state government. The central government's ongoing privatization program eliminated hundreds of thousands of union jobs, and its 1993 decision to link future wage increases to productivity gains denied the CTM the role of bargaining with the government on wage increases for all workers. Instead, the CTM was limited to advising individual union locals as they negotiated new contracts with plant operators.
Data as of June 1996