Business & Economy

Closure of maquiladora in Mexican border city puts workers on the street

By Abraham Pineda

Matamoros, Mexico, Mar 23 (EFE).- The sudden closure of a foreign-owned assembly plant, or “maquiladora,” in this city on the border with the United States has left more than 500 employees without a paycheck or any assurance they will receive their severance.

Workers on the first shift reported to Componentes Universales de Matamoros S.A. de C.V. on Wednesday to find a sign announcing the shutdown of the plant, which produced electronic components for export, and security guards who prevented them from entering.

Employees are gathered outside the factory to make sure that neither equipment nor materials are removed before the company commits to paying the severance they are due.

“I don’t know what happened. No sooner did we get here we find the plant closed, they don’t let us in. They don’t tell us anything, there is the just the sign here,” 28-year Componentes employee Juvenal Moncayo told EFE.

Most of the staff have worked at the plant for decades and some are nearing retirement.

Though maquiladoras have existed since the 1980s, they multiplied after 1994 thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had the effect of spurring US firms to shift some operations to lower-wage Mexico.

Currently, maquiladoras employ nearly 3 million people across Mexico and account for more than 60 percent of exports, according to figures from the industry association, Index.

In this city of roughly 520,000 people just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, most of the 78,500-plus industrial workers are employed by US-owned maquiladoras.

While Matamoros and other border cities with maquiladoras have experienced labor conflicts, some as a result of stronger worker protection measures in the 2020 US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (the successor to NAFTA), the last disruption of the magnitude of the abrupt shutdown of Componentes Universales was years ago.

“I still can’t believe it, I think we will have a solution tomorrow. God first, one must have faith first of all,” said Alicia Martinez, who has worked at the plant for 33 years.

A union representing maquiladora employees, Sjoiim, received an email from Componentes Universales management saying that the company lacked the resources to keep the plant running.

“Regrettably, we have not managed to reverse the situation and, as a result, the bank has cut our access to financing lines,” Sjoiim representative Jesus Sanchez said, reading the email aloud.

The union has asked the Labor Court to impose an embargo on the factory and its contents pending an agreement on severance for the employees.

If the situation is not resolved, Sjoiim is planning a strike by all its members for March 30, which would be the first such massive job action since 2019, when workers at dozens of maquiladoras walked out for several weeks to demand bonuses. EFE ap/dr

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