The Perks of Pemex

I’ve written before on some of the problems of Pemex (see, for instance, “Not everything is perfect, perfect, perfect“).  A recent WSJ article about the company’s attempts to renegotiate terms with the union help to explain some of these issues.

Under the current contract, union workers:

1. Retire at age 55 with “at least 80% of the average salary during the past year worked.”  Pretty sweet deal.

2.  Get 30 vacation days annually and those days aren’t merely a paid holiday; they receive three times their pay for those vacation days! (if they have worked at Pemex for at least 10 years)

3. Receive low interest rate mortgages if they want to purchase a house

4.  Enjoy extensive health insurance benefits, including “cosmetic surgery for employees and their relatives.”  Their relatives too?  Wow, was there any actual contract negotiation going on by Pemex management before now? Did they even try?

Always look for the union label, Mexican edition

I didn’t think my opinion of the Mexican teacher’s union could be an lower, but the WSJ had a great piece yesterday (sadly gated) about the current union mindset.  It was not impressive.  I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just list some of the best parts:

1. I don’t really care if students learn the words to the national anthem, but parents in one Oaxacan town found out that teachers were making students sing a popular leftist song instead.  Apparently, said song “acts as an unofficial anthem to a local chapter of the teachers union.” 

2.  The union is “steeped in Marxist ideology and a proponent of class conflict has blocked access to national highways and established huge tent cities in Mexico City to house protesters” since August. On its website, the CNTE says it is “independent of the bourgeoisie and its state.” Many of its members consider it to be a revolutionary movement fighting for the poor and powerless against the rich and powerful in Mexico. The “movement,” as CNTE teachers call their union, is on a crusade to stop the Mexican government’s educational reforms.”  If they were truly a movement fighting against the rich and powerful, they should have started by taking down La Maestra, the super corrupt leader of the union for 20 years.

3.  The union is known for their “legendary strikes”–literally every spring for the last 30 years, sometimes lasting for months.

4. Some union leaders may have links to a left-wing guerrilla group called the “Popular Revolutionary Army, or EPR, which authorities say has engaged in kidnappings of businessmen.”

5.  Some members complain about the amount of non-teaching work the union forces them to do, including “months-long marches and sit-ins.”  The union “excoriates by name teachers and local officials who it says have betrayed union principles.”

6. In San Lucas, parents have complained that the teaching is “both bad and politicized.”  The teachers do very little teaching and “rarely used textbooks.” But they did have students put on “plays and dances where students dressed up in black balaclavas and carried wooden rifles typical of the Zapatista rebels.”

7. And the corruption runs deep: “State documents show that Oaxaca’s government also gives millions of dollars to community groups run by union-affiliated activists, which lobby the government for money for social projects. Grants to these groups—which use the money to help solidify their control in communities—are rarely or ever supervised or audited, say three former top Oaxaca government officials. Last year, for instance, the Popular Revolutionary Front, a unit of the Communist Party of Mexico, Marxist-Leninist, which says it coordinates many of its activities with Section 22 [of the teacher’s union], received $3.2 million from the Oaxaca state government for an office building, cars and a swimming pool in an eco-tourism project, Oaxaca state government documents show.”  That sounds like some good Marxist-Leninist ideology at work!

The union has denounced what it calls “political slander” by the administration.  Their counterargument isn’t very convincing though.  For instance, the union leaders say that “The government, which for decades has sunk the country in the most abject misery, has no right to accuse us of anything and that the oligarchs of Mexico’s political class are the worst extortionists; they steal billions of pesos from the country every year.”