Note published in Factor Capital Humano, Mundo del Trabajo [The World of Work] Section by Gerardo Hernández.
Read the note in its original source
The new rules of the game defined by the labor reform and the USMCA force companies to assume a more active role in building relationships with their collaborators and in the prevention of collective disputes.
The change in labor matters in the Mexican job market has already started. The labor reform and the new rules of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) bring new challenges for companies in labor relationships and in the prevention of labor disputes.
Faced with a more empowered workforce that is more aware of its rights, how to avoid collective disputes? The key lies in “labor engineering”, a model developed by Blanya Correal Sarmiento, based on three thematic pillars: human, strategic and business impact aspects.
“The solution of collective issues is not based on a single variable. When you look at these three areas, human, strategic and business impact issues, you realize that they are not solved solely from the legal perspective”, states the partner of the De la Vega & Martínez Rojas Abogados (DM Abogados) Firm in an interview.
Labor engineering, as proposed by the former senior Human Resources director at Nissan Mexicana, is a comprehensive policy to assume a proactive role in relationships with workers. It is comprised of a legal and collective strategy, risk mapping, communication, participation and architecture of collective bargaining agreements.
How to implement labor engineering? The specialist explains that the identification and correction of risks, as well as the active participation of the workers are the key.
Legal strategy and risk mapping
There are three recurring risks in organizations operating in Mexico: protection contracts, exclusion clauses and financial support to unions.
In this sense, the first step in the implementation of labor engineering is to conduct a diagnosis of the company and its compliance with the new labor rules. For example, in the presence of a protection contract, specifies Correal, the company may be in compliance in regard to the right of association, but not in regard to the representativity of the union and its workers.
By Law, as a result of the 2019 labor reform, workers must be aware of the collective bargaining agreements but, before sharing the agreement with the workers, the specialist recommends providing support to the workforce to enable them to understand their collective rights and all topics surrounding the new collective bargaining.
All detected risks must be corrected in order to comply with the new provisions in collective bargaining matters and union democracy, therefore, the legal strategy is important.
Another of the most recurrent risks, says the specialist in human capital, is keeping the exclusion clauses in collective bargaining agreements, that is, a policy of termination from work when a person decides not to belong to a union. “That violates the right to freedom of association”, she points out.
Another frequent situation in Mexican organizations is the support of unions with financial resources. This is another source of risk for companies because it can be interpreted as interference in union life, a practice that is strictly forbidden in work centers and which is directly linked to union control through payments.
Interference in union life through aid funds, exclusion clauses and protection contracts are practices that cannot continue in the new model of collective relationships established in the labor reform.
Communication and participation
This point is linked to communicating to the workers the advantages of maintaining a collective relationship that favors dialog and not conflict.
While strikes and work stoppages are alternatives for workers to apply pressure, these practices can also lead companies to bankruptcy and put job sources at risk. Therefore, effective communication between both parties can prevent conflicts that harm both the business and the employees, in the worst scenario.
On the other hand, the participation of workers in the company and the improvement of their conditions are fundamental in the prevention of conflicts. Blanya Correal says that, in her experience, many labor disputes are the result to the absence of participation schemes for workers to express their concerns and propose solutions.
Additionally, she states, compliance with the new rules implies moving toward a new labor culture “in which workers have sufficient maturity and criteria to make decisions that help them to make their job positions sustainable”.
Having workers that are informed, mindful and responsible in regard to the improvement of their conditions is one of the challenges faced by companies given the new rules on labor democracy matters and collective bargaining, and in which labor engineering can contribute to avoid conflicts.
“It also has to do with the way in which the company and team leaders relate to people. This is something that should not come from the reform, but an obligation for companies in regard to the handling of their human capital but, in my opinion, the reform fosters working relationships based on trust, good communication and people development. It will surely encourage having better leaders in the organizations”, adds the specialist.
In order to prevent labor disputes, it is necessary to have organizations and leaders that are closer to the workers. On many occasions, collaborators are unaware of all of the benefits that they have, and this is due to a poor communication with and a disconnection from the talent. “We need to have channels with better structures. These are the breaches that are being currently used by the unions that promise different things to people who sometimes already have them”, emphasizes Blanya Correal.
From the specialist’s perspective, there are three basic elements in the implementation of labor engineering: satisfied collaborators, open communication channels, and problem-solving channels. “It is a completely preventive approach that strives to develop labor maturity within a company, and it will, eventually, aid in the prevention of conflicts”, she concludes.