How to sensitize workers for the revision of collective bargaining agreements?

Note published on September 14 in El Economista, Capital Humano [Human Capital] Section by Blanya Correal Sarmiento
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Close to 30,000 collective bargaining agreements (CCTs)  were legitimized within the framework of the implementation of the labor reform. But the party did not end there; in fact, it is barely getting started. This becomes evident in the more than 2,900 applications for certificates of representativeness that, based on information provided by the Federal Center for Labor Conciliation and Registration (CFCRL), have been issued from last May to date.

This means that we are in a context of extremely high union activity, as many collective labor organizations, upon being left without protective agreements, have started a search for workers that want to have them as their representatives.

It is interesting to think how workers today have not only the power of electing their representation, but also of participating in the key decisions that affect their working conditions. And this is where the challenge arises for the middle management of companies.

For years, Mexico existed within a kind of veil that kept the workers disconnected from the reality of the business. For better or for worse, not knowing or not being sensitive to this reality kept the workers on the margins of decisions in regard to their salary increases, their benefits of their working hours. The only aspect that, in some cases, but not in all, was shared with them was the profits of the business for the calculation of the PTU [Employee Profit Sharing], but even in this regard, we are clearly aware that there were practices that did not foster transparency.

Now, with the labor reform that made this participation mandatory, through the workers’ personal, free, secret, and direct vote, companies have no choice but to educate their workers to ensure that this power is exercised responsibly and not in response to the expectations created by players that want to obtain a benefit from the situation.

Nevertheless, the communication that can sensitize collaborators from the workers’ bases takes a lot of work, first, because we, as companies, have few actual forums to widely disseminate not only the figures, but the elements that help the understanding of where the company is in terms of its situation. But also, because there is not necessarily trust in that what is being shared is the transparent and clear reality, that allows people to make appropriate decisions to improve their conditions in equilibrium with business possibilities.

In Mexico, companies that have had this need are generating different practices in the search of a better preparation of the worker for his participation in labor democracy. For example:

» 1. CCT revisions start from the back end

Rather than hoping to reach an amount by exhaustion resulting from bargaining back and forth, the new way of negotiating is based on the company’s financial reality and results, on the basis of which the criteria for the projected salary increases and improvements in benefits are clearly established, projected, additionally, through time, to ensure that the sustainability of the business in the long run is maintained.

» 2. Expanded commissions for the review of the CCT

It is no longer sufficient to reach an agreement with the union leadership; today, the exercise of collective bargaining represents a framework of sensitization of the workers and, therefore, it requires a different structure for the negotiation tables where, in addition to the active participants, workers that are opinion leaders among their peers become involved, with the objective of their becoming information disseminators.

» 3. Capitalization of informal leadership

Identifying the people who have an influence on their peers, for good or for bad, and sharing first-hand information with them is probably the most effective and fast mechanism for sensitizing workers. In this sense, it is required, from the side of the companies, that there are channels both for providing information and for listening that allow a true joint dialogue and not only a monologue, as this fosters the understanding of information.

We are faced with a reality that entails that we treat the workers as the adults that they are, that we prepare them and that we trust their capability for understanding that, to the extent that the company does well, they will fare  better.