Labor Organization to File Complaint with Supreme Court about Latest Increase in Minimum Wage

Article excerpt

The labor organization Congreso del Trabajo (CT) is planning to file a legal challenge against the latest average increase of 5.78% in the minimum wage. In late December, the Comision Nacional de Salarios Minimos (CNSM) raised the minimum wage to 42.15 pesos (US$4.61) per day in Zone A, which comprises the Mexico City metropolitan area; to 40.10 pesos (US$4.38) in Zone B, which covers larger cities like Guadalajara and Monterrey; and to 38.30 pesos (US$4.19) in Zone C, which encompasses the rest of the country.

The CT and other labor organizations had sought an across-the-board increase of 25% in the minimum wage, but labor representatives in the CNSM were unable to push through a raise this large.

Labor leaders had won a small victory when their allies, the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD), successfully blocked a plan by President Vicente Fox's administration to extend the value-added tax (impuesto al valor agregado, IVA) to food, medicines, and other basic goods. But that victory was eroded by the very small increase in the minimum wage approved by the CNSM.

Labor leaders say small increase violates Constitution

Labor leaders said they would bring the issue before the nation's highest court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nacion, SCJN), because the low increase violates a section of the Mexican Constitution that requires that a minimum wage be sufficient "to maintain a family."

This is the first time labor has sought assistance from the SCJN, even though increases in the minimum-wage have been just as small in recent years.

Among other things, critics argue that the small increase in the minimum wage is insufficient to compensate for the continuing decrease in the purchasing power of Mexican workers.

Economist Julio Boltvinik of the Colegio de Mexico said workers must now work twice as long to afford the basket of basic consumer goods as they did in 1963. "This small increase in the minimum wage is ridiculous," said Boltvinik, a frequent critic of the neoliberal policies adopted by Fox and the previous three presidential administrations. "The recovery in the purchasing power of workers is again postponed."

Boltvinik said there is little evidence of political will to help the working class. "My point is that the only public discussion we see involves minimum wage," said Boltvinik. "We are not seeing any serious policies that promote an increase in salaries."

Columnist Jorge A. Villamil Rivas of the Mexico City daily newspaper Unomasuno said labor representatives in the CNSM did not push hard enough for a higher increase in the minimum wage during end-of-the-year negotiations. "This was one of the worst revisions of the minimum wage in memory," said Villamil. …