Public Report of Review of NAO Submission No. 9701
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Bureau of International Labor Affairs
[Excerpt] U.S. NAO Submission No. 9701 was filed on May 16, 1996, by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), and the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (Asociación Nacional de Abogados Democráticos, hereinafter ANAD) of Mexico. The submission raises issues of discrimination against women job applicants and women workers in Mexico's export processing (maquiladora) sector. The submitters allege that maquiladora employers regularly require female job applicants to verify their pregnancy status as a condition of employment and deny employment to pregnant women. Additionally, the submitters allege that some maquiladora employers discharge pregnant employees or deliberately mistreat them in order to provoke their resignation. Mexican law guarantees financial and medical support to pregnant workers and their families through the social security system. However, when workers have not been employed for a sufficient period (30 weeks) to qualify for social security benefits, employers are required to provide maternity benefits to pregnant workers, including six weeks of paid leave before and after delivery. Thus, the alleged basis for the discrimination is economic. The submitters assert that such discrimination is widely countenanced by Mexican Government officials charged with enforcing Mexico's labor laws, and may even be condoned as part of a wider effort to curb population growth. They assert that these actions are in violation of Mexican domestic law which prohibits gender discrimination and provides special protection for pregnant workers. The submitters argue that by failing to enforce its laws, Mexico is in violation of NAALC Article 3(1) on effective enforcement of its labor law, and Articles 4(1) and 4(2) on access to tribunals for enforcement of labor law and recourse to procedures through which labor rights are protected. Moreover, such discrimination is asserted to be inconsistent with the Preamble of the NAALC which commits the Parties to the protection and enforcement of basic worker rights as well as the promotion of Labor Principles included in Annex 1 of the NAALC, specifically the principle committing the Parties to the elimination of employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, age, sex, or other grounds. The submitters further argue that Mexico is in violation of international law, namely Convention 111 of the International Labor Organization (ILO); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and the American Convention on Human Rights. All of these instruments have been ratified by Mexico and, it is asserted, have legal force in accordance with the Mexican Constitution. The submitters requested that the U.S. NAO (1) initiate a review pursuant to NAALC Article 16; (2) hold public hearings on the matter; (3) engage the Mexican Government in a public evaluation of the issues raised; (4) encourage the Mexican Government to meet its NAALC obligations; and (5) urge the Secretary of Labor to request consultations with the Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare in accordance with NAALC Article 22.
North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation; NAALC; Mexico; Canada; United States; labor law; working conditions; worker rights