TELMEX is a telephone company in Mexico that experienced new labor relationship during 1980s. It was owned by the government then, and in 1990 had a privatization process. Dr. Ignacio Medina Nuñez wrote this article as part of his PhD dissertation.
TELMEX: MODERNIZATION AND NEW LABOR RELATIONSHIPS
Author: Dr. Ignacio Medina Núñez
The Mexican government helped to create TELMEX (Teléfonos de Mexico) enterprise on December 23, 1947. This happened when two enterprises joined together in equipment and infrastructure: Compañía Telefónica y Telegráfica Mexicana (CTMM), filial of the ITT, and Ericsson, from Sweden. Ericsson had 139,000 telephonic devices by that time (almost 57.86% of the total telephone devices in the whole country).
Telephony in Mexico was controlled by foreigner investors. However, in 1952, the Mexican government started contributing with financial programs, which helped that telephonic enterprise to grow. Furthermore, there were some local companies engaged in this business as well.
The Mexican government gave a lot of opportunities to national investors in an attempt, on the part of the government, to encourage the participation of Mexican national entrepreneurs to take active part in the business of TELMEX. On August 20, 1958, Mexican entrepreneurs "acquired all the investments of TELMEX which belonged, by that time, to ITT of the USA and L.M. Ericsson from Sweden" (Voces, October 1982:250). Thus, TELMEX was taken over by Mexican private investors. "A group of Mexican entrepreneurs and bankers headed by Carlos Trouyet, Eloy Vallina and Antonio Ruiz Galindo acquired most of the investments of TELMEX" (Cruz C.C. en Alvarez B.A., 1990:147).
It was the time, nevertheless, when communications in the whole world were restructured because of the investment that was done on communication by Satellite. This was the time as well when the introduction of automatic equipment displaced the out of date battery local ones. President Adolfo Lopez Mateos inaugurated the first microwave telephone system in Mexico. This system connected Mexico city with two other important cities in the country which are Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo. During the fifties (1950s) both the ITT and Ericsson changed their role in Mexico and they became later on suppliers of all the electronic equipment of commutation and telecommunication products though they continued selling the equipment that TELMEX needed, based on communication through copper cable.
The introduction of microwaves in the Mexican telephony gave as a result a partial reorganization in TELMEX, which influenced TELMEX's workers of different departments negatively. The cable system implied the infrastructure of direct copper wires along with a system of air injection with the purpose of avoiding humidity. The above system had to be connected inner cities, among cities and among countries. We could see in Mexico the telephonic cables which made possible that communication by phone took place. Microwaves made the above equipment out of date, eventhough inner cities still remain the old cable system.
Inner cities telephone lines form a kind of swarm of wires which connect the user's phones from their homes to the central control, located in the building of the company. There are different types of telephone networks. For instance, the main network links the central controls with the destination cases; and the secondary network links the distribution cases with the different phone distribution points.
The use of cables from the phone users to the central control inner cities did not change during the sixties (1960s) in Mexico, though the long distance cables started becoming useless. "The long distance telephone network was formed by aerial cables which connected the different cities of the country and through them were transmitted the different telephone calls that had to be done necessarily by means of operators. We can still remember those posts that were found along the way parallel to the main roads that began to disappear since 1962 along with the workers who once were in charge of.
Setting them upright. By 1967, the microwave system in the Mexican telephony reached 95% and only 5% of the whole Mexican telephonic system was form by physical cable system"· (Idem, 1990:165). All the workers in charge of long distance cabling -and its activity was extremely important in the old telephone system-, were affected as well since the automatic long distance system does not require most of the times of the operators' services.
The links through microwaves and satellite made out of date the copper cable used in long distances; however that old copper cables system still remains inner cities. Every phone call that a user does goes from the telephone device through the secondary and main network (through the cable) to the telephone central in urban areas. Connection from central to central throughout the country is done automatically by the microwave system which links with the satellite through the Tulancingo station in Hidalgo State.
In Mexico, the big concentration of population in urban areas and around industrialized places created a great necessity on the part of the users to get the telephone services that were offered by TELMEX and other small companies engaged in this business. By 1967, there were a million of telephones working. This growth increased notably during the seventies (1970s) and reached in 1981 the promotion of 8 telephones for every 100 inhabitants. During this period of a fast growth, the government decided to buy 51% of TELMEX's investments. This way, the government became the biggest economical partner of TELMEX. There was an official change on August 8 of 1972. Furthermore, TELMEX increased more its growth.
In 1972, there were 100 million long national distance calls and the amount increased in 1982 to 150 millions. 10 millions of long international distance calls were made in 1972 and this number increased in 1982 to 55 millions. 90 years would have gone by to reach a number of one million of telephones working in 1967; from then, only six years had gone by when the number of telephones that were working had increased from one million to two millions.
TELMEX's expansion has been based on the growth of the telephone lines that have been set up; furthermore, it has been based on the absorption of some little phone companies that were working in certain regions as well. The Ojinaga Phone Company (in the state of Chihuahua) and Mexicali, BC, a company located close to the USA borders were the last two companies incorporated to TELMEX. This happened in the middle of the eighties (1980s). After that time, TELMEX was the only one in charge of offering the cable telephonic service to the potential clients.
TELEPHONE DEVICES INSTALLED IN MEXICO
YEAR POPULATION TELEPHONES DIGITAL
1878 9.436,000 8
1900 13.697,000 3,065
1930 16.533,000 84,862
1950 27.791,000 270,699
1960 34.923,000 502,476
1970 48,377,000 1.459,276
1980 67.383,000 4.800,000 0%
1990 81.249,645 10.000,000 29%
2000 TELMEX wants to reach: 30.000,000 80%
Sources: Ibarra M., 1990:55; Gómez-Mont, 1992:75; Alvarez B.A.,1990:147; Gutiérrez G.E., 1989:135: Expansión, no. 516, 1989:51; El Cotidiano, no. 46, 1992; S.C.T.; TELMEX.
During the seventies (1970s), when TELMEX's growth was increasing day by day, the digital technology was introduced to the company, which brought with it important changes in TELMEX's structure. This digital technology differs from microwave which during the sixties affected only the long distance department.
The first test of digitalization was carried out in 1979. This was done after the optical fiber was tried in some areas of Mexico city. The above test was the first one in Latin America and was known as "Tlahuac - Milpa Alta System". This system started functioning on September the 6th, 1979, and linked 13 town-ships in just one central control with digital equipment. "In 1978, TELMEX took the decision of introducing the new technology and hires Ericsson and INDETEL enterprises as its suppliers. In 1982, it starts setting up digital central" (Idem:61). After 1983, optical fiber was used to connect central buildings as well.
It was the beginning of the substitution process of electronic and semi electronic central buildings and the substitution of copper cables that were set up from central to central. For this purpose, TELMEX organized a contest about digital technology in 1980. Five enterprises took part in this contest. It was won by INDETEL and Ericcson. The first one got 75% and the second one got 25%.
The advance on the use of optical fiber was slow but it got a remarkable increase because of the earthquake of Mexico city in 1985. "Serious problems emerged due to the earthquake in 1985. Those problems caused serious damage to the telephonic plant and forced to accelerate the digitalization program with the equipment that substituted the damaged system" (STRM, 1988:5). In 1988, it was digitalized 10% of the telephonic plant and it was planned to get an 80% of 30 million of telephone devices by the year 2000. Optical fiber is increasing its use in underground networks either to connect the central systems of the cities and to link the more important cities in the country.
Different from the old technology consisting on copper cables, the introduction of optical fiber enhanced enormously the quality of communication in the voice and in another services; just one fiber connector as thick as a human hair can carry more than two thousand telephone calls simultaneously. Furthermore, it can transmit data and images in high speed and precision. The fiber's thickness can vary when transmitting four or six thousand telephone calls at the same time.
French and American researchers invented the optical fiber. TELMEX started buying it at the end of the seventies (1970s). Optical fiber functions as means of transportation using light signals. In comparison with the copper cable, optical fiber has the following advantages:
1. Transmissions can reach a high level of precision and speed.
2. The same circuit can be used simultaneously by a lot of users.
3. Services can be diversified apart from the voice.
4. Equipments utilize just a quarter of the total volume used by the traditional ones.
5. It doesn't have circuit breaker problems
6. The company requires less amount of personal for its operation.
"The large use of microelectronic in digital central buildings gives highly profitable features since they can be installed in a considerable smaller space. Furthermore, they have a much higher capability for low cost and reduced times. Its functioning and maintenance are easier since they are completely automatic and can be operated by stored programs" (Caliz C. in Alvarez B.A:, 1990:171)
TELMEX's technological and organizational changes were done during the eighties (1980s) and they implied high levels of investment but at the same time those changes implied a high increase in services' sales. TELMEX continued being highly profitable business and became one of the best enterprises of the country, though its growth required funds that the government got from foreign loans. "TELMEX is an enterprise that maximizes utilities; in other words, it functions with black numbers. The net profit of this enterprise, in percentage, has grown from 1975 to 1984. It has a large margin of economical benefits! (Marum E:E., 1985:53). To give a specific example, we can find that during 1982-88, during the time of the biggest inflation in the history of Mexico, TELMEX got very high benefits. "Utilities move from around 300 thousand millions of Mexican pesos in 1987 to one billion 428 millions in 1988, namely, utilities grew 450%" (Rangel P.M., 1989:7).
TELMEX IN THE 1980s
YEAR WORKERS IN STRM SALES (old Mexican pesos)
1982 40,052 58,521
1983 41,750 115,619
1984 34,683 173,460
1985 37,487 263,913
1986 40,662 564,768
1987 44,700 1.489,964
1988 49,995 3.408,206
1989 49,203 5.245,893
1990 49,912 10.692,703
Sources: Expansión Magazine. Nos. 397, 422, 447, 497, 522, 547, 572, 516.
The introduction of optical fiber as substitute of copper cables was the beginning of TELMEX's industrial reorganization. But this was not a simple technological change; rather it was a really reconstruction of TELMEX that took into account the change of the whole former infrastructure consisting of underground networks (from central to central and from city to city). There was a complete substitution of the analogical telephonic central buildings by the new digital equipment; furthermore, it was required of a human equipment highly qualified who were in charged of maintaining the new equipment. In addition, it was needed of a generalized use of computers not only with the purpose of selling the telephonic service but for the supplying of the service itself either local or long distance. The change of the technology means TELMEX's rebuilding; furthermore, it means a reorganization fo the work processes due to the organizational changes of the enterprise.
However, it has to be taken into account that not all the workers are registered in the Telephonic Union in the Mexican Republic (STRM, in Spanish). The STRM, who has a collective contract in TELMEX, only has registered 50 thousand workers who are in charge of working on communication services and on maintenance of TELMEX's telephone lines. TELMEX has created at the same time other filial companies which are used to hire services like building new central points, installing underground networks, setting up equipment and sometimes its maintenance also, provoking with this the displacing of the workers who are registered in the STRM.
The contracts with a lot of TELMEX's filial enterprises or with companies different to itself makes that most of the work related with the telephonic services in Mexico doesn't depend only on workers registered in the STRM; rafter, that work depends on workers outside of the Union and who are considered by TELMEX as trustable employees. Some of those workers are formally registered in other unions that belong to the CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de Mexico, the official Union of the government) or sometimes those workers are eventually hired by TELMEX and as a consequence they don't have any fringe benefits. Also, TELMEX itself started having a concession on cellular telephony through one of its filial called "Dise os y Proyectos S.A.", from Tijuana. Furthermore, TELMEX got another concession on cellular telephony through TELCEL whose services are supplied by workers who are not registered in the Union.
Those contracts has been always a problem since the STRM was founded an it has always existed with or without the STRM's agreement. In a near future, it could happen that the amount of employees who work for TELMEX's filial and TELMEX's contractors be larger than the number of workers who are registered in the STRM. According to information given by the general Secretary of the STRM, Francisco Hernández Juárez, the numbers of employees who work for TELMEX's filial are 28,000 (Expansión, no. 516, 1989:57). There are also some specific cases of companies known as "the big users" as PEMEX and BANAMEX, that have their own internal communication lines. These companies don't need already TELMEX's services. Thus, it seems that there is a tendency to subtract slowly the job sources of the workers registered in the STRM. This is possible due to the collective contract with the STRM, that allow to TELMEX contract with others.
"The arrival of the new technology to TELMEX has given, as a result, the displacing of the unionist workers. The point is that TELMEX has insisted on hiring other companies mainly its suppliers, who were in charge of maintaining that equipment. Thus, we can see that the optical fiber, digital central buildings, and the transmission equipment are installed by TELMEX's supplier or by foreigners who are experts on those jobs. In the case of digital switchboards, TELMEX has given the responsibility of commercializing, installing and maintaining to the manufacturers of this product. This has produced that the STRM's workers have been almost totally displaced" (Felix E.R., en Gutiérrez G.E., 1989:139). The above situation along with the law that allow the government to intervene in the operation of the enterprise in case of conflict are two main reasons why strikes have no powerful effect on the unionists' rights defence.
During the eighties (1980s), TELMEX got modernized its equipments. In 1989, TELMEX had 17% of its central buildings digitalized (it had 793 thousand telephone lines digitalized from a total of 5.122,000 lines and with an amount of 8.766,000 phone devices, in 1988, in the whole country. Cfr. Expansión, no. 516, 1988:46). According to Alfredo Pérez de Mendoza, who works as strategic planning director of the enterprise, the lines that are not digitalized had abnormal functioning; however, he admitted that there were around 600 thousand telephone lines which had a non appropriated functioning and they would be replaced. The telephonic service in Mexico is bad and too expensive. It has several problems such as for example the delaying when answering important lines like the 02, 05 and the 09; the lack of positive response in short time to the complaints from the users reporting phones out of order; the large amount of long distance calls that are accredited to users who don't recognize that those long distance calls belong to them; a lot of telephone calls that are interfered with sounds or other conversations; in addition, there are a lot of public phones that are out of order. "Just only during the first 8 days of 1991, there were reported 81,711 complaints and accusations against TELMEX by users from Mexico city" (Expansion no. 559, 1991:43).
The main reasons of the bad service that TELMEX gives to its users are found in the rigid labor relationship with the STRM. As Alfredo Pérez de Mendoza said in 1989: "TELMEX is an old enterprise. Its modern period comes for forty years ago. Therefore, its contractual relationship between employer-employee had gotten old already. We had 57 covenants each one was equivalent to a departmental contract. Apart from that, we had the collective contract. It was just impossible for us to attend all those situations since we did not have the administrative capacity" (Expansión, no. 516, 1989:51). According to TELMEX's point of view, the bad service was given due to a rigid labor relationship and the corruption that had been found in the STRM. The above point of view was shared by Vicente Bortoni, who is President of the CONCAMIN (organization of the businessmen in the industry): "the lack of attention to the users of the telephonic service has as main reason the problems found in the STRM. These problems have stuck enormously the modernization process. So, that has to be fixed" (Idem, 1984:42). The above perception was clear to Francisco Hernández Juárez, the unionist leader, who said: "TELMEX has tried to blame us all the time. They tried to provoke us and to disqualify us" (Idem, 1989:44).
TELMEX presented its position to the Union on March 16 of 1989. They say that the fundamental reasons of the telephonic service deterioration are found in some collective contract's clauses and in the 57 departmental covenants. TELMEX wrote a document for the STRM which has a paragraph that said: "the delay of introducing the new technology, on our part, is due to the impossibility to get fast and responsible answers from the STRM" (Vázquez R.P. El Cotidiano, no.31 1989:59).
At the end of the eighties (1980s), the STRM went through a dangerous juncture that put in risk its existence. Other work organizations were having similar situations because of the reorganization of different enterprises. We can mention many cases.
For instance, the SUTIN (Union of workers of nuclear industry) was broken apart because of both a governmental decision of shutting down URAMEX enterprise on August of 1983 and a new nuclear law initiative on November of 1984 (Cfr. Trejo D.R., 1990:212-6). The FORD Cuahutitlan was shut down in 1987; it opened again after there were disappeared several clauses from its collective contract (Arteaga G.A., en Bensusan y Leon, 1990:153). The case of the AHMSA's workers from the section 288 of the SNTMMSRM (National Union of the miners) in Monclova, Coah., whose strike lasted 51 days; this happened on June of 1986; after the strike was over, 856 workers were fired from the plant no. 2; furthermore, there were some changes and mutilation for the collective contract. The sentence of bankruptcy for AEROMEXICO; this happened on April 18 of 1988; this gave as a result that the contract for the workers disappeared (Camposeco M., en Gutiérrez G.E., 1989:164). On May 9 of 1986, the "Fundidora de Monterrey" was shut down and ten thousand workers were fired; in addition, the union of that company was destroyed (Trejo D.R., 1990:165). The shut down of "Aceros Chihuahua" in 1985 despite the fact that the workers of that company continued, several months after, asking for the reopening of their job source. The shut down of the automobile enterprise Dina-Renault in 1986, etc. Later on January of 1989, the leaders of the national Union of PEMEX were judicially and politically affected; this brought drastic changes in the collective contract during the period of 1989-91 (Loyola D.R., en Bensusan y León, 1990:48-9).
The STRM managed to survive during the nineties (90s) and remained as interlocutor with the collective contract's possession. Besides, it retained most of its workers. The above happened because of the internal harmony that the workers have in the union; in addition, the President Salinas de Gortari forced TELMEX to negotiate with the STRM. This was recognized by the general secretary of the STRM, Francisco Hernández Juárez.
The STRM was willing to negotiate. Furthermore, it manifested its support to the modernization project and the improvement of the telephonic service. The preoccupations of the unionists, related with the effects of the introduction of the new digital technology, were shown since 1981. By that time, they suggested to create the modernization committee in 1985. After, in 1986, they added in the collective contract the very important clause no. 193, which was about the great compromise that TELMEX got with the STRM. This compromise was related with programming along with the STRM the different stages that the telephonic modernization will include. In 1987, the telephone workers accepted the different measures of the intensive program for the telephonic service improvement (PIMES in Spanish), though they did not accept the accusation that TELMEX formulated against them blaming them as the only cause of the worst conditions of the telephonic service. The unionist suggested also a project of improvement alternative program through the integration of a mixed commission of productivity. The above process came to an end when a "covenant of mutual agreement" for the modernization and improvement of the telephonic service was signed between TELMEX and the STRM. This happened on April 14 of 1989. The work collective contract was adjusted (Cfr. Hernández J., 1991:48). That adjustment was done in a year that did not correspond to a contractual revision; furthermore, that adjustment affected important clauses of the work collective contract. The above was considered as the preamble of TELMEX privatization.
According to Hernández Juárez, the big triumph of the STRM was a public recognition of a negotiation between TELMEX and the STRM, and holding the job for all the telephone workers. In return to that, the STRM had to be flexible on very important points.
Due to the need of modernization of different companies in Mexico during the eighties (80s), the different enterprise organizations haven't considered the unions as available interlocutors rather as obstacles which have interfered on their reorganization and productivity. That is true with the official unions, because of their corporative system that is an obstacle for the new methods of labor flexibility both in enterprises' departments and work places; they are obstacles against productivity and reorganization since they have been too passive; in addition, they haven't been able to present alternative projects for modernization. On the part of not official unions, we find only accusations about the negative way that modernization has affected the workers but there is no alternative projects, only the defense of the jobs.
In this context, it's important to take into consideration, in one hand, the significant experiences on the part of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME: electrician Mexican union) during the negotiation of the contractual review in 1990-92; on the other hand, the STRM's experiences during the mutual agreement covenant in 1989 and the modification for the collective contracts in 1988 and 1990. According to Enrique de la Garza and Javier Melgoza, the "SME and STRM are heading the experiences of participation of the union on productivity in Mexico" (El Cotidiano no. 41, 1991:20). The above can generate a new kind of unionism called newcorporatism, though at this time it exist in Mexico only as an embryo. A similar point of view, about the way the STRM and SME have faced the reorganization of their enterprises, is shared by Graciela Bensusan and Samuel Leon, who argue: "this two unions, different to others, are considered as examples because of their high level of participation of their workers, their democratic life and their leaders' ability to create negotiation links both in the public administration and inside of their companies" (Bensusan y León, 1990:18-9).
During the signing of the mutual agreement covenant in 1989, which was the prelude of the official announcement about the privatization of the telephonic service, TELMEX and the STRM compromised themselves on taking all the necessary measures for the modernization and improvement of the telephonic service. Before the Mexican state gave up TELMEX to the private enterprise, it was fulfilled the requirement about more flexibility of the labor. The more important agreements of the covenant can be detailed as follows:
. the workers are obligated to fulfill with the position's profiles that substitute the 57 departmental covenants. 585 categories of work positions and salary levels disappear. It will be left 134 categories in 31 specialties with 40 salary levels (from $14,273 to $53,369 old Mexican pesos daily; that is from 3 to 18 dollars for 8 hours of labor).
. Hiring of new personal will depend on productivity and service's needs. With this, was modified the 27 clause of the collective contract in 1988.
. Temporary or permanent mobility of the workers from one department to another; furthermore, workers changes to other points of the country depends on the production's needs and service of the company without the requirement that was established by the 65 clause of the collective contract in 1988 related to a mutual agreement between the different parts.
. Creating the productivity mixed commission that will carry out tasks related with preparing and training people.
. It is the company's obligation only to inform the STRM about technological changes with the purpose of diffusion and enabling. The company will assume the responsibility of the diagnostics, programs and measures related with the service's improvement. The above arrangement influenced the 193 clause of the collective contract which was established since 1986. Through the above clause, the STRM was permitted to have a broad participation on the technological change implementation.
. It is the unionists' obligation to obey the orders and the different tasks that the trusted personal demand, who will supervise all the jobs.
There is a situation that always has existed in the STRM since 1976: the workers opinion when deciding about the union's position on fundamental points of its labor life. This was done also with this covenant of 1989. The telephone workers accepted the covenant.
According to Enrique de la Garza, the STRM did not win too much whereas the company imposed the conditions of necessary flexibility for the modernization. Eventhough, the STRM was not defeated and it did not happen a savage mutilation of the collective contract; the union turned back on what it has conquered before; namely those changes affected negatively to certain extent the STRM. According to De la Garza, "TELMEX diminished the possibility of construction of a production corporative union (neocorporatism) as an alternative to the traditional circulation corporativism now in crisis. The participation of the STRM on productivity and quality has no legal base with the new TELMEX's collective contract" (De la Garza, El Cotidiano. no. 32, 1989:56).
An academic from the University of California in San Diego wrote an essay dedicated to TELMEX's privatization. He thinks that the STRM was forced to do too much concessions when the mutual agreement covenant was signed on April of 1989. He thinks that in practice, the STRM took a very passive position about the modernization process which was preparatory to the privatization of TELMEX during 1990-91 (CFR. Dubb S., 1992:1-2)
Rosario Ortiz y Rodolfo García, two TELMEX's workers stress the negative results of the mutual agreement covenant as well. They characterize that action as a loss of strength that the STRM had won until that moment. "The mutual agreement covenant restricts the STRM an its collective contract on three aspects: a) the loss of bilaterality. On this field, the STRM reduced its action to the minimum level. b) the personal mobility, and c) the flexibility in work relationship" (Ortiz y García en Bensusan y León, 1990:233).
Pilar Vázquez points out that the telephone workers were struck but not defeated. Moreover, if we take into consideration how weak the unions were during the 80s, "they managed to maintain the union's unity; it was singed a covenant where TELMEX got a commitment of not firing workers. They managed to level the salaries and they got that the position's profiles has the essential of the covenants" (Vázquez P., El Cotidiano no.31, 1989:59).
About this covenant, Nestor de Buen asks himself: "Was it a TELMEX's triumph and a government triumph? Was it a STRM's failure? It was neither a triumph nor a failure. We have to recognize that TELMEX has improved remarkably; therefore, it has improved its responsibility toward the service. However, the union has gotten something important as well, which is to maintain alive the collective relationship without sacrificing neither job nor work conditions. The above achievements during this difficult times are a great success" (De Buen. El Cotidiano no. 30, 1989:61).
Francisco Hernández Juárez accepted that there were changes in the collective contract but he prefers to stress the achievements when says: "We defended three fundamental aspects: not mutilation to the collective contract, not personal readjustment, and to keep the union out of problem that could affect it seriously. The three above aspects where fulfilled and that was one of the reasons why my friends decided to accept the covenant" (Hernández J.F. Expansión, no. 516. 1989:56).
If we take into account what President Salinas de Gortari said to the telephone workers after the mutual agreement covenant was signed, we can realize what was the purpose of the negotiation: "As it was before, with the structure that had before, TELMEX was not feasible. You have saved your work sources with the signing of this agreement" (Expansión, no.516. 1989:44). In other words, that was about all they could get since the situation was complicated for them; otherwise, TELMEX could have been divided and the STRM could have disappeared. It appears clear that in this conflict, because of TELMEX and other enterprises' aggressiveness against the unions, President's intervention, which was an attempt of reconciliation, was really important. TELMEX accepted to negotiate with the STRM.
The novel thing in the telephone workers union was not only the defence of its work source; the point is that they offered themselves to cooperate on the modernization process. They began responsible for the service improvement. The telephone workers assumed a clear position toward TELMEX's digitalization: "we were presented a disjunctive that obligated us to take a decision; on the one hand, we could object and resist this process. With this the STRM would be out of this new technology's attention, In addition, it would be diminished gradually over the appearance of new companies or concessionaires of the new services. On the other hand, we could join the process and try to get an equally participation which guarantee the permanence and growth of the union organization" (STRM, 1988:5).
To the STRM general Secretary, the above last position was conclusive toward the new stage of the Mexican unionism that can't be only in a defensive position (though keeping the work source itself is a great achievement if we consider the current crisis of the Mexican economy) but elaborate its own historic project through the active participation on each of the changing process: "We believe and trust that unionism can and should participate on modernization and this participation is about a right politic tendency that will permit to have an access to a new historic period of the development of the Mexican unionism" (Hernández J.F., 1990).
To what extent have the telephone workers been benefited from the participation on TELMEX's modernization during the 80s? The great triumph is that the STRM's workers still continue having their jobs; furthermore, they are holders of their work collective contract. Despite the fact of the aggressiveness of the neoconservative entrepreneurs and the government's policy against the unions, the STRM kept: the union's unit, the work source and the STRM continued being TELMEX's and government's interlocutor. However, the condition for a more or less balance negotiation during the modernization period is found in the existence of an autonomous union organization that has electoral democracy norms and certain kind of participation of its workers. With regard to this, Bensusan and Leon argue: "the above condition permitted to exist a really bilaterality during the negotiation which helped to keep the working condition and level of job. Furthermore, it was kept, in a good extent, the necessary condition that may the STRM take part in the changes related with the economic modernization" (Bensusan and León, 1990:17).
It can't be denied that the mutual agreement covenant meant a serious limitation for the union; however, its political position toward modernization is still the possible model for a new unionism in Mexico that can have salaries relatively higher in comparison with other unions. It can be also more representative over its bases and interlocutors. In addition, it can be cooperative on raising productivity and improving services; furthermore, it can maintain an historic alliance with the government.
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