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Cablegate: Sonora Branch of Farm Workers Union Is Pleased

VZCZCXRO6968
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHM RUEHHO RUEHJO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHPOD
RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #5934/01 3311528
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271528Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9655
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RUEHXI/LABOR COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 005934

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR DRL/AHH AND ILCSR, WHA/MEX, USDOL FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB EAGR SOCI PGOV PINR MX
SUBJECT: SONORA BRANCH OF FARM WORKERS UNION IS PLEASED
WITH ITS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1. SUMMARY: The Hermosillo office of the CNC (National
Peasants Confederation) in the northwestern Mexican state of
Sonora is a farm workers union that is making a positive
difference in the lives of persons employed in the various
sectors of Mexico,s agricultural industry. The CNC,s
Hermosillo office has negotiated collective bargaining
contracts that establish standardized wages for all workers
employed in the state,s agricultural industries regardless
of whether or not they are members. It has established a
close and cooperative relationship with growers (employers)
and it is working with progressive businessmen in this group
to promote an agriculture version of the type of corporate
responsibility initiatives commonly used in many
manufacturing industries. At present the Hermosillo CNC,s
highest priority is to have agricultural workers enrolled in
Mexico,s Social Security system. Getting growers and the
GOM to work out the terms of this enrollment will not be
easy. If accomplished it would allow agricultural workers
access to Mexico,s national health system and ultimately to
accrue retirement/pension benefits. The Hermosillo CNC is
one of the few organizations involved in Mexican agriculture
that is not critical of NAFTA; and in fact sees the free
trade agreement in fairly positive terms. Regular contact
with this union could provide solid examples of how NAFTA has
benefited Mexican agriculture and would allow the USG to
factually rebut those who routinely criticize the free trade
agreement. END SUMMARY.


AN UPBEAT FARM WORKERS UNION
----------------------------

2. On November 6, Mission Mexico Labor Counselor and
AmConsul Hermosillo,s Labor Watcher visited the main offices
of the Sonora branch of the National Peasants Confederation
(CNC). The Sonora division of the CNC is formally known as
the &State Union of Workers of the Agriculture, Cattle,
Aquaculture Industries and Services of Sonora "Salvador
Alvarado". The CNC itself is a national organization of
small to medium farmers and agro-industry workers dedicated
to promoting the interests of these segments of Mexico,s
agricultural industry. The CNC is formally a part of the PRI
(Institutional Revolutionary Party), Mexico,s former ruling
political party, and nationally its activities are often
evenly divided between the promoting the political interests
of the party working to improve conditions for small farmers
and farm workers.

3. The Hermosillo office of the CNC operates in the
northwestern Mexican state of Sonora. The Sonora CNC has
4,000 permanent members/workers but it also represents and
negotiates on behalf of some 30,000 seasonal workers employed
during the state,s various harvest times. The Hermosillo
CNC negotiates with the state,s Association of Agricultural
Producers of Sonora, an organization of growers and
agro-industrialists who employ farm laborers. The Hermosillo
CNC appears to have an excellent relationship with the
growers, association and in fact some of its representatives
were present at the November 6 meeting. The overall tone of
this meeting was buoyant and both the Hermosillo CNC and the
growers, association representatives seemed eager to show
Mission Mexico personnel their close working relationship and
to underscore what they jointly accomplished to improve
working conditions for the farm laborers throughout the state.


FARM WORKERS, COLLECTIVE BARGAING CONTRACT
------------------------------------------

4. Both the Hermosillo CNC and the growers, association
proudly discussed the terms of a farm workers, collective
bargaining contract; a copy of which they shared with Mission
Mexico personnel. The contract establishes a minimum wage
and benefits package for all persons employed as agricultural
laborers throughout the state of Sonora regardless of whether
or not they were formal permanent members of the state CNC.
The need for a collective bargaining contract with state wide
coverage became immediately clear once the Hermosillo CNC
explained that during the harvest season a large number of
seasonal workers either travel to or are imported into the
state to help bring in the crops. The statewide contract
ensures a basic salary and benefits package for all

MEXICO 00005934 002 OF 003


agricultural workers and discourages any attempts by less
scrupulous individuals to try and undercut wages by importing
workers from the poorer parts of Mexico outside the state.

5. The current collective bargaining contract for farm
laborers prevailing throughout the state of Sonora
establishes a minimum wage of 117.42 pesos per day (USD
10.87). This amount is more than twice the official daily
minimum wage in Mexico which is roughly equivalent to USD
5.00 and compares favorably to garment factory workers in the
central Mexican state of Puebla, some of whom earn as little
as the equivalent of USD 9.78. Both the Hermosillo CNC and
the growers, association representatives were eager to point
out that individual workers and free to try and negotiate
higher salaries with potential employers but that it was
illegal for any laborer in the state to be paid less than
amounts established in the collective bargaining contract.

6. In addition to a minimum daily wage for agricultural
laborers in Sonora the current collective bargaining contract
also makes provisions for overtime payments when employees
are required to work on Sundays and establishes a higher
minimum daily wage of skilled workers such as tractor
drivers, mechanics and heavy vehicle drivers. The contract
also has some (modest) profit sharing provisions and for
permanent CNC members/workers and for certain longer-term
seasonal workers, a mechanism for paying Christmas bonuses.
Permanent CNC members/workers are also entitled to employer
paid life insurance benefits.


THE NEXT STEP FOR SONORA,S CNC
------------------------------

7. The Hermosillo office of the Sonora CNC was obviously
pleased with what it has accomplished so far for agricultural
workers in the state. Now that the Sonora office had
negotiated what it considered to be a fair collective
bargaining contract it was preparing to focus on a new and
undoubtedly a more far-reaching goal. According to the
Secretary General of the Hermosillo CNC, Trindad Sanchez

SIPDIS
Leyva, the next step for the union was to work with the GOM
and the state,s growers association to establish a method
for fully enrolling agricultural workers into Mexico,s
Social Security system. Enrollment in this system would
allow farm laborers and their families access to Mexico,s
national health care system and enable these workers to begin
to accrue retirement/pension benefits.

8. Enrolling agricultural workers in Mexico,s Social
Security system would significantly improve living conditions
for these laborers. Unfortunately, the high cost and
bureaucratic complexity for employers of enrolling their
employees in the system it often cited by businessmen a being
one of the major obstacles to job creation in Mexico. A
significant number of employers in Mexico go to great lengths
to avoid the cost and difficulty of enrolling their employees
in the country,s social security system. Moreover, many who
do enroll their employees under report the workers, by a
considerable amount in order to lower their own financial
liabilities. Given the relatively modest salaries of farm
laborers in Sonora there would be little real incentive for
agro-businessmen to substantially under report their wages.
Nevertheless, paying into social security for their laborers
in not something employers have had to do in the past and in
all likelihood they will resist taking on this added expense
of doing business.


AGRO-INDUSTRY CORPORATE RESPONSIBILITY
--------------------------------------

9. Although getting agro-employers to enroll their employees
in Mexico,s Social Security system may still be something
for the future, the Hermosillo office of the CNC is already
working with the state,s growers, association to develop an
agriculture version of the type of corporate responsibility
initiatives commonly used in many manufacturing industries.
This initiative is still relatively new and the idea of this
type of corporate responsibility is not yet universally
accepted as something that can or should be done by the
agro-employers. Nevertheless, the representatives of the
growers, association present at the November 6 meeting

MEXICO 00005934 003 OF 003


unequivocally affirmed that developing and implementing a
corporate responsibility initiative was something his
organization was committed to doing. The first tentative
steps the growers are taking are in the areas of improved
housing (for out of state laborers) and subsidized meals for
farm laborers. No specific information was provided on what
follow-on steps the growers might take but fact that they
have thought about and committed their organization to
carrying out such an initiative is significant.


NAFTA GOOD FOR SONORAN AGRICULTURE
----------------------------------

11. More often than not, when the topic of NAFTA comes up
with most persons involved with Mexican agriculture the
comments one is likely to hear are uniformly negative.
However, this was definitely not the case in Sonora. The
Sonora CNC did not see NAFTA as imposing some type of unfair
competition on Mexican agriculture. From their perspective,
NAFTA has increased demand for agricultural products produced
in Sonora by facilitating the flow of goods. As a result,
growers in the state have expanded their production and this
has created additional jobs for farm laborers. The Secretary
General of the Hermosillo CNC repeatedly told Mission Mexico
personnel that his union was fully sportive of NAFTA.


COMMENT
-------

12. The visit of Mission Mexico personnel to the Hermosillo
office of the CNC was unquestionably a very positive first
step in establishing contacts with this sector of organized
labor in northwestern Mexico. The Sonora CNC clearly appears
to be setting an example for how cooperative relations with
agro-employers can improve working conditions for farm
laborers. The Hermosillo CNC is also one of the few
organizations involved in Mexican agriculture that is not
critical of NAFTA; and in fact sees the free trade agreement
in fairly positive terms. Regular contact with this union
could provide solid examples of how NAFTA has benefited
Mexican agriculture and would allow the USG to factually
rebut those who routinely criticize the free trade agreement.

13. This message was cleared with AmConsul Hermosillo.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /
GARZA

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