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Press Release

Companies in Mexico putting profits ahead of worker health & safety during pandemic

“We continue working and they have not given us anything, one worker has already died and more than 40 colleagues from the area to which he belonged are in quarantine. We don't want to work like this.” - Maquiladora worker

Allegations include:

  • ‘Death bonuses’ offered to keep low paid employees working in non-essential business during the pandemic
  • A ‘temporary’ month-long closure of one company which then disappeared closing all staff payroll accounts
  • The company with the highest number of COVID-19 related worker deaths globally is Mexican oil firm PEMEX, according to Bloomberg

A new report published today by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre found evidence of corporate negligence putting workers at risk throughout the early stages of the pandemic. The report, Economies of care or abuse? Company behaviour in Mexico during COVID-19, focuses on coronavirus-related human rights impacts in the maquiladora industry, agribusiness, mining and energy sectors. Analysing hundreds of reports by media and civil society, this is the first investigation of its kind in the region. The report shines a light on corporate practices in some of Mexico’s core sectors and found evidence businesses systematically violated labour rights throughout the pandemic.

Key findings

Two in five (40%) of the allegations of human rights abuse by companies related to violations of the right to health. This included lack of implementation of adequate health measures and exposing workers to high-risk situations, either in the workplace or in transport to and from their homes. More than a third (35%) related to unjustified, arbitrary or mass dismissals. The rest of the allegations related to reduction in wages, ‘forced vacations’ without pay and reductions in social benefits, among others.

Diana Figueroa Prado, Regional Researcher & Representative for Mexico & Central America at Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said “Of particular concern is the sectors with the strongest links to international production chains – maquiladora industry and agribusiness – were among the worst offenders. Almost two-thirds (65%) of all health-related allegations were attributed to maquiladora companies. In the agribusiness sector, migrant workers were exposed to appalling labour abuses.

“The mining and energy sectors also fared poorly, with three in five (60%) of companies in the mining sector accused of putting the health of workers, their families and entire communities at risk by continuing operations, despite the mining sector being considered a ‘non-essential’ business for a certain time period.”

While many companies reported positive actions during the pandemic including the donation of food and medical supplies, and repurposing of facilities or supply chains to respond to COVID-19’s demands, overall companies need to adopt a much better, systematic approach by ensuring respect to human rights in their operations and supply chains.

Figueroa added, “It’s essential we see remedial action to ensure the health and safety of workers during the pandemic, plus longer-term, the implementation of human rights due diligence risk assessments as part of all company operational plans.”

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre recommends:

  • Workers are re-hired with their labour rights and benefits restored, matching at least those held before the pandemic
  • The implementation of urgent measures to include human rights due diligence in companies’ operations, including tracking their supply chain and investing in the protection of their workforce.

//ENDS

Find out more

Read the report Economies of care or abuse? Company behaviour in Mexico during COVID-19

London: Media contact: Pippa Woolnough, Head of Communications, Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, +353 858353757, [email protected]

Mexico: Diana Figueroa Prado, Regional Representative for Mexico and Central America, +52 1554354594, [email protected]

Methodology

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre analysed 229 allegations against domestic and foreign companies in Mexico raised by the media, civil society, and other public information sources. It selected 42 companies across the four business sectors to provide more detailed information and invited these companies directly to respond to the allegations. Only seven responded.

Maquiladora industry

Amphenol, Audi, BCS ASI, Benotto, BVI Medical, Electrocomponentes, Electrolux, Flex, Foxconn, FrontRunner Technologies, Honeywell, Hubbell, Industria Maquiladora y Manufacturera de Exporación (Index), Joerns Healthcare, Johnson Controls, Komatsu, Kongsberg, Lear Corporations, Lexmark, LG Electronics, Merit Maquiladora, Modine, Nissan, Plamex S.A. de C.V. (Plantronics), Skyworks, Syncreon, TPI, TPI Planta 3, Tridonex, Valeo, Volkswagen and Zahorí

Agri-business

Rancho Los Pinos and SM Invernaderos (a link between the fields where most abuses were reported and the hiring company could not be established)

Mining

Don David Gold, Equinox Gold, Fresnillo, Grupo Frisco (Ocampo Mining), Industria Peñoles and Minera Gorrión (part of Almaden Minerals)

Energy

Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) and Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX)