In face of the economic ravages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, President López Obrador recently announced a series of economic measures, which include the reduction of high officials’ salaries as well as the elimination of their year-end bonuses.
In an interview with Manuel López San Martín, in MVS Noticias, Oscar de la Vega, a lawyer with over 30 years’ experience in labor matters said, in regard to this decree, that “from a constitutional point of view, it isn’t possible to reduce the salaries of State workers, given that they are defined annually in the expenditure budgets of the Federation”, making reference to Section Four of Article 123 which covers the rights of these workers.
He said that labor rights cannot be violated, even by Presidential decree. “Speaking from a Constitutional angle, this is illegal; these are labor rights acquired by the workers”.
Previously, De la Vega had pointed out that the fact of having declared the health contingency as being caused by “force majeure” seeks to invalidate Section Seven, which was added to Article 427 of the Federal Labor Law as a result of the 2012 Reform, and states that in case of a health emergency, the employer must pay its workers a compensation that is equivalent to one day of the minimum wage for up to 30 days; therefore, creating the obligation of the payment of salaries without the provision of services would also imply a violation of the Rule of Law.
This section has the objective of avoiding the termination of labor relationships in face of extraordinary situations, enabling the employer to maintain the viability of his business by lightening costs and ensuring that the worker receives a compensation that allows him to face the contingency.
In regard to the above, De la Vega mentioned that the Section being discussed must be abided by, since business owners are paying one month’s wages, out of solidarity, but the uncertainty in regard to the duration of the contingency could be the end of many small and medium businesses.
“If PYMES [Small and Medium Businesses] are not protected during this crisis, and are allowed to use established legal mechanisms, they won’t be able to rise again, which would complicate reactivation our country’s economy”.
In closing Óscar de la Vega insists that, at times like these, it is important to adhere to legality and to abide by the Rule of Law, especially to avoid precedents which could have catastrophic results in the mid and long term.