The maquilas and the workers | Luis Britto Garcia

The maquila. The privileged model for the globalized exploitation of labor is the maquila: a factory that transnationals install in a Third World country to fully or partially fulfill a process whose product is almost entirely exported, in order to take advantage of the cheapness of the hand of work and incentives such as the suspension of labor laws and privileges of exemptions and tax exemptions.

They were introduced in Mexico in 1965 by President Díaz Ordaz. Its basis is a protectionist measure of the United States government, which since 1964 has awarded preferential rates to the import of goods previously exported from the country for processing, and exempts said export from taxes. Of some 3.000 maquilas installed in Mexico at the beginning of the century, US capital owns 40%, and another 47% is owned by Mexican companies that are US subsidiaries. Through the maquila, foreign capital avoids complying with the laws of its country and also evades those of the one where it is installed.

Overexploitation and prohibition of unions. The maquilas installed in Central America and Asia operate under similar principles. The Geneva-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (CISL) compared the conditions of the maquilas in Central America with those of concentration camps, and denounced that human rights violations such as beatings, sexual abuse and distribution of amphetamines were committed there to withstand the arduous work days, which average between 10 and 12 hours a day, with frequent unpaid overtime. Wages range from $ 1,40 to $ 1,90, much lower than the legal minimum wage of $ 2,83 a day. Of thirteen unions that existed in Guatemala in 1990, in 1996 only three remain: their members are harassed until they dissolve, and companies close and move as soon as they face any labor problem (Peace Brigades International: “Trade Unions and the Maquila Sector - Guatemala Special Report ”, September 1996). Therefore, the 1999 UN Human Development Report recognizes that “when 27 million workers in the 845 export processing zones in the world are not allowed to organize in trade unions, that constitutes a violation of workers' rights to as well as their human rights ”(Pnud 1999, 86). Market freedom requires the elimination of all the others.

Low remuneration. For the business depends on maintaining a negligible cost of the labor force. In 1992, the Mexican maquiladora earned $ 2,07 an hour, and the American worker 11,3: almost six times more. (Inegi, May-August 1993, 30, cited by Estévez, Edna (1998): Globalization, transnationals and integration; Vadell Hermanos Editores, Caracas, 148). Noam Chomsky notes that the collapse of the Mexican economy subsequent to the establishment of NAFTA in 1995 “transformed Mexico into a cheap source (that is, even cheaper) of manufactured articles with industrial wages that are one-tenth of those of the United States. United ”(Chomsky 1999, 127). Also referring to the Mexican experience, Edna Estévez summarizes: “In other words, the maquilas carry out productive and / or service activities, sometimes polluting, intensive in cheap labor, unskilled and preferably female (they constitute more than 90% of the labor force). of contracted work), although they also use 12-year-old children (same as the first industrial production). Work that allows you to save up to $ 25.000 a year per employee ”. (Estévez 1998, 149). Jean Ziegler notes that maquiladoras in the toy industry regularly make their workers work 16-hour days, seven days a week, with no special overtime pay or night wages, minimum wages, or maternity leave, thanks to which the wage costs hardly represent 6% of the sale price to the public (Ziegler, Jean: (2003) The new masters of the world; Ediciones Destino S A. Barcelona, ​​131).

Transnational tax havens Thus, foreign investors take advantage of public services, legal security, and the education and health of workers in a country without significantly contributing to the public spending that pays for them, since they are usually exempted from paying import duties on raw materials and export of manufactured products, and exempted from other taxes thanks to the infamous Treaties against Double Taxation and other rules of unconstitutional privilege.

Balance

In summary, the maquilas or special zones only benefit the transnationals, and have negative effects for all the other participants: 1) For the working class, who work in them under conditions of sexist discrimination, overexploitation and negligible remuneration, from which they take away the totality of social and labor conquests won through arduous struggles of decades. 2) For the State, which by virtue of the Infamous Treaties against Double Taxation, tax stability contracts, exemptions, exemptions and other privileges unconstitutionally granted to transnationals, practically does not receive from them taxes with which to pay for education, health and workers' pensions and other essential expenses. 3) For the economy of the country where they are installed, which only operates one phase of the production process, and almost never receives maquiladora production for its internal consumption, mostly destined for foreign markets and at unaffordable prices for nationals. 4) For national sovereignty, which becomes fragmented in areas where the laws of the Republic are not applied nor do its courts operate, as if they had been militarily occupied by foreign powers. 5) And finally, for the managing political organizations: Rafael Caldera took the first step towards the installation of maquilas in our country in 1997 with the cancellation of the retroactivity of social benefits and other labor gains. His party never won an election again.

 

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