Since early June, workers are protesting labour conditions at Flextronics in Guadalajara, Mexico. Singapore-based Flextronics is a global manufacturer of printed circuit boards, producing for numerous brands, including Sony Ericsson, Motorola, HP, Nokia, IBM, LG, Microsoft (Xbox), and RIM (BlackBerry). On 29 June 2009, a group of workers staged a demonstration outside the factory of Flextronics in Guadalajara, Jalisco. The workers prevented the access to the factory compound of at least seven buses transporting workers. In July, another series of actions and demonstrations has taken place.

The demonstrating workers are trying to raise attention for a number of pressing labour issues:

Flextronics’ harsh treatment of workers asking for transparency on profit sharing

Mexican employees are entitled to share in their company’s profits. The Mexican Federal Labour Law provides for annual profit sharing at a rate fixed by the National Committee for Workers’ Profit-Sharing in Enterprises (Articles 117-131). The rate of profit sharing is determined every 10 years by a national commission. The rate is currently 10 percent of the employer’s taxable income. The company’s annual tax declaration is key in this respect.  Workers have the right to object to the annual declaration as presented by the company. The Electronic Industry Workers Coalition (EIWC) denounced Flextronics’ unwillingness to live up to the law. Flextronics, however, claims that no profits were made in the fiscal year 2008. Two years ago, on 6 June 2007, Flextronics announced the take-over of Solectron. Flextronics paid $ 3,6 billion for Solectron. It now claims that the debts made to purchase Solectron prevented any profit making in fiscal year 2008.

On 1 June 2009, the Electronic Industry Workers Coalition (EIWC) organised a press conference and released a bulletin “También somos parte de las utilidades y las generamos” (or “We are also part of the profits and we produce them”). At the press conference, the EIWC denounced the fact that several electronics companies are not respecting the due process for profit sharing as  laid down by the Mexican labour law. The manufacturers concerned include Flextronics, Foxconn, Sanmina SCI, Jabil, USI. They produce for brands like IBM, HP, Dell, Motorola, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Phillips, LG and Lenovo.

Subsequently, more than 100 workers signed a collective letter addressing Flextronics and asking the company to disclose the annual tax declaration as presented to the tax office.

Following the press conference and reception of the letter, in stead of disclosing the requested information, Flextronics turned to pressurising the workers who signed the letter. Workers were summoned one by one by the Flextronics’ Human Resources personnel and were asked to reveal the names of workers who had organised the signatures for the collective letter. In reaction to this intimidating exercise, a group of workers held a work stoppage inside the factory.

By 26 June, six workers were sacked. The company argued that due to lack of production there was no work for them. Five of the workers were employed directly Flextronics; they received their full severance pay. The sixth worker was hired through recruitment agency EGB and received an offer of a mere 1,000 pesos ($74 or €55.56).

Flextronics refusal to hold wage discussions

Flextronics workers have in vain been trying to engage Flextronics in wage negotiations. Workers hired through employment agencies receive lower wages than workers hired directly by Flextronics, even though they do the same work. CEREAL and the EIWC point out this is in violation of the Mexican Labour Law and Constitution (art. 123, fraction VII), as well as of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 23, number 2). Workers argued to increase the wages of the labour agency workers up to the level of the wages of the regular workers. The daily wage for an engineer is 200 pesos ($14.81 or €11.11). Some of the engineers hired directly by Flextronics do indeed receive this amount. Others also hired directly by Flextronics receive only 91.20 pesos. The engineers hired through labour agencies receive a daily wage of 84.20 pesos only ($6.24 or €4.70). In 2008, Flextronics offered to increase the wage of the workers-engineers hired through labour agencies up to91.20 pesos, but the company had not lived live up to its promises. Although expectations were raised, Flextronics refused to discuss the matter. The workers then wrote a letter to Mrs Adriana Commer –the Flextronics’ Human Resources manager- reiterating their demands. Within hours of sending this letter, one of the workers involved was taken apart, locked in a room for two hours without permission to use the restroom, to be subsequently thrown off the Flextronics premises. The same night, another worker was dismissed. The following day, yet another worker was fired. Another five workers involved in the wage discussion received threats inside the factory. These eight workers also took part in the gathering of signatures for the collective letter demanding transparency on the profit sharing process.

The unlawful dismissal of a woman worker denouncing sexual harassment

A third issue concerns a woman worker who had denounced her supervisor for continuing sexual harassment over a year’s time. The woman, who worked as security agent with Flextronics, was hired through employment agency CSIS (Metroccidente). The woman had reported the abuse to the company as well as to the recruitment agency, but no steps or measures were taken. She had even issued a legal demand at the labour court, but the court had not yet summoned the company nor the labour agency for a hearing. Five days after criticising this situation in a letter to the employment agency, she got dismissed without severance pay. On 29 June and on 3 July demonstrations were staged at CSIS regarding this case as well as other cases of irregular dismissals. Only after the second demonstration, CSIS gave in and offered to pay severance pay. At first, CSIS only agreed to pay 50% of the severance pay due, but when the worker did not accept this, finally CSIS came round to pay the full 100%. Flextronics, nor the labour authorities, has made any effort to contribute to resolving this matter.

These are not isolated cases – in June and July workers have also protested the conduct of other labour agencies, including APRO and One Digite, and other companies, including IBM and Dell as well as ILS Logistics, concerning labour issues. See other entries on this website.