Monday, April 14, 2008

Maquila Lay-offs

As the U.S. goes, so too does Mexico. In 2000, as the U.S. economy slowed, employment plunged 15% in Mexico’s maquilas. More than 160,000 jobs were lost in Mexico’s maquila sector by late 2001. Once again the onset of recessionary times in the United States is impacting maquila employment. From October through February, maquilas in Juárez laid off 11, 370 workers—a drop of 4.6%. At the beginning of March, the city’s maquila sector employed 233,861 workers but leaders of industry associations predicted continuing layoffs in the months ahead as the U.S. recession deepens. Especially hard hit are the city’s auto-parts plants, including Automotive Lighting, Lear Corporation, Delphi, Philips, Manufacturas Avanzadas, Anamex, and ITESA (Siemens). Plant closures and lower sales in the United States for Ford and GM mean layoffs and reduced hours for workers in Mexico. According to José Jésus Díaz, secretary general of the Revolutionary Federation of Northern Workers (a CTM branch), more than fifty assembly plants in Juárez have cut back workers’ hours in response to reduced factory orders. Juárez hosts dozens of high-tech maquilas, while most of the city’s low-tech, low-skilled assembly plants have moved to the country’s interior where wages are lower. According to Sandra Montijo Dubrule, president of the Maquila Association of Ciudad Juárez, the city’s maquilas are trying to retain their highly-trained work forces, which is why they are slowing down production and cutting hours—paros técnicos—rather than closing down the plants. She believes that as soon as the economic crisis in the U.S. passes, the maquila sector will continue its expansion. Montijo Dubrule told El Diario (March 10), “It’s better to assume the economic cost of having to pay employees for days not work that having to fire them and then recontract them after two or three months.”

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