By Daina Beth Solomon
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Spurred on by labor protections in the new North American trade deal, a top Mexican trade union has accused Home Depot <HD.N> of blocking union activity and threatened strikes next week if the U.S. home improvement chain does not improve pay and benefits for workers.
The Revolutionary Confederation of Laborers and Farmworkers, or CROC, is pressing for a 20% raise, benefits such as 20 annual vacation days and more contributions toward transportation, school supplies, food and savings funds.
The union also is urging the company to end discrimination, sexual harassment and unfair dismissals, which it says have been reported to the union and labor councils.
“We called for a strike due to worker rights violations and to review the collective labor contract,” CROC Secretary General Isaias Gonzalez told Reuters.
Home Depot has about 6,200 workers under the union’s contracts, according to CROC.
Gonzalez said the demands were similar to those CROC put to retailer Walmart de Mexico last March before the government passed a reform designed to guarantee workers’ rights and end decades of cozy relationships between unions and companies that yielded so-called protection contracts.
Walmart <WMT.N> and CROC reached a deal to avert strikes.
The demands for Home Depot, where CROC has 40 collective contracts in 18 states, grew out of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Gonzalez said. The trade pact was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives only after Mexico stepped up commitments to enforce its labor laws.
“Now is the time to act, because we now have the new labor law, we have USMCA, and we can’t be held to the terms of companies that resist,” Gonzalez said. “They’re used to protection contracts. But that ended with the new labor law.”
The USMCA has yet to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.
When asked about CROC’s demands, Home Depot said it was not the only company adapting to Mexico’s labor law.
“This stems from the ongoing changes coming from the new labor reform standards, which are not specific to The Home Depot,” said Home Depot spokeswoman Sara Gorman.
“We’re committed to doing the right thing, taking care of our associates and complying with the law, which we’ve done since our arrival in Mexico in 2001.”
Home Depot has about 16,000 employees across 125 stores in Mexico. Some workers in recent days have displayed large banners emblazoned with CROC’s arguments at store entrances.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Bill Berkrot)