In the 1970s, Mexico’s labor law focus was primarily aimed at empowering the worker and securing greater freedoms and safety nets in response to powerful labor unions and social pressure. While the efforts to enact a meaningful Mexican labor law reform for the worker were noble and well intentioned at that time, the consequences were unfavorable to the national economy as well as to foreign investment. Efforts in this area at this time actually had the effect of causing unintentional harm to employees in terms of restricting job growth and economic dynamism.
Various aspects of the employer-employee relationship were never defined, and when in doubt, the courts always deferred to the employees. If a terminated employee was ever successful in an appeal, regardless of how long the appeal process lasted, the employer was liable for all the income the former employee would have earned in the intervening months and even years – several companies even went bankrupt after losing just one appeal. The minimum wage was based on a monthly salary, and the benefits and perks companies had to provide for employees resulted in reduced foreign investment. Companies didn’t want to hire employees that the government might not let them ever terminate. It was too risky to invest in Mexican labor when the possible adverse consequences of hiring workers were so apparent.
However, in December of 2012, the government enacted a sweeping Mexican labor law reform. Although fiercely opposed by some on the far left, today, there is a general sense of optimism about the effects of this reform. Employers now have more room to choose and shape their employee pool. One such portion of the new Mexican law allows employers to hire new workers on a trial or probationary period – thirty days for general staff and up to 180 days for management candidates. Additionally, hires may be made on a temporary basis. Mexican labor law now provides greater flexibility for companies to craft an elite workforce.
Due to the reform of 2012, dismissed employees in Mexico are limited to 12 months of unpaid wages if their termination is overruled. This is seen as a reasonable halfway measure to protect the worker, while reducing the risk of a fatal blow to the company should they face such a payment. Wages have also been hitched to an hourly system, now ensuring more productivity from employees. Unions have also been made more transparent. As a result of the reform of Mexican labor law, financial activities must be reported to the government every six months.
In light of these encouraging changes and the increase in foreign investment that has resulted from the Mexico’s labor law reform, President Enrique Pena Nieto recently announced his belief that Mexico’s economic growth could accelerate to 6% by 2018 from last year’s 3.9%. Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at the University of Texas, El Paso wholeheartedly agrees with President Nieto, adding that he believes that foreign direct investment will likely more than double in the coming months and years, as more and more manufacturers choose to establish production facilities in Mexico.