Mexican Stellantis unit to resolve US Labor complaint

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Mexican Stellantis unit to resolve US Labor complaint

The logo of Stellantis is seen on the company's headquarters in Poissy near Paris.

MEXICO CITY - A Mexican unit of Stellantis expects to resolve a complaint from Washington within a few days, after it agreed to recognize an independent union, a move that was attributed to U.S. pressure under a recent trade pact.

Stellantis-owned Teksid Hierro de Mexico said the complaint, which claimed rights abuses at an auto parts plant in the northern border state of Coahuila, was to be closed without going to a dispute panel.

The U.S. Trade Representative USTR is negotiating a remediation plan with Mexico's government on the matter under the 2020 United States-Mexico -- Canada Agreement USMCA and will provide more information in the coming days, a USTR spokesman said in response to questions from Reuters.

Since 2014, workers at the plant have accused Teksid of colluding with the powerful union CTM to block the election of an independent union, The Miners, and closing the USMCA case will mark the end of one of Mexico's longest-running labor conflicts.

In recent weeks, Teksid has recognized The Miners as the rightful union and agreed to re-hire, with back-pay, 36 workers who said they had been fired in retaliation for supporting the independent labor group.

The Italian-French carmaker would become the fourth company to address a USMCA complaint since the first case at a General Motors Co plant in Mexico's Guanajuato state last year.

Teksid's plant of 1,500 employees, which makes iron castings for heavy vehicles, showed that it has shown compliance with the points related to the complaint, a company told Reuters on Friday.

U.S. labor authorities filed a U.S. labor complaint over alleged rights abuses on June 6, asking Mexican officials to investigate.

On July 11, Teksid and The Miners reached their deal.

After eight years of conflict, the swift action from the Trump-era USMCA has shown how Mexican workers have been able to oust long-established company-friendly unions in favor of independent groups. The scattershot victories have left Mexico's dominant unions criticized as too cozy with management, ensconced in most factories.

Stellantis supports collective bargaining rights and will follow local laws when asked about the U.S. complaint. Mexico's economy and labor ministries did not respond immediately to questions about the U.S. complaint.

Alfonso Torres, 45, took his old position in the factory on July 21, eight years after being fired, after wearing a blue helmet and fresh uniform.

Torres camped outside the plant as he tried to get back the job he started in 1998, because time dragged on and other factories refused to hire him. He said that his younger co-workers reminded him that the fight for a better union was worth it.

Do you think we can leave them a salary like CTM left? He asked. We want to do something fair. Torres makes 374 pesos $18 per day - roughly in line with the hourly starting wages for U.S. Stellantis workers.

The USMCA wants to reduce the wage gap between the U.S. and Mexican workers, and recent raises achieved by independent unions at General Motors and Panasonic after USMCA complaints show it is hitting some of its targets.

While inflation is high, local autoworkers don't have the kind of mass leverage that the United Auto Workers has provided at Detroit carmakers, and that's why wages elsewhere have been stagnant.

Imelda Jimenez, a former Teksid worker who is now The Miners' political affairs secretary, said the union will soon demand raises, but was on guard to see how Teksid would act without U.S. scrutiny.

The USMCA, which has tougher labor rules than the earlier NAFTA, could have had tariffs applied on exports if the plant was found to be in violation of the USMCA.

Jimenez said they never acted this way before.