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In Mexico, auto industry struggles to rev up operations

Rodrigo Cervantes Sep 24, 2020
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Auto industry activity is resuming at factories in Mexico. But, unions are concerned about working conditions. Mauricio Palos/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

In Mexico, auto industry struggles to rev up operations

Rodrigo Cervantes Sep 24, 2020
Heard on:
Auto industry activity is resuming at factories in Mexico. But, unions are concerned about working conditions. Mauricio Palos/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Mexico and the United States are deeply connected by trade, with very close ties in the automotive industry. In mid-May, the sector started to reopen in Mexico after pressure from lobbying groups on both sides of the border.

A new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement took effect on July 1, 2020. It requires the auto industry to standardize workers’ salaries and use more materials that come from the three countries.

Miguel Barbeyto, Mazda Mexico’s president and CEO, said the company is getting ready for that, while dealing with protocols around the pandemic. “So, we need to work hard,” Barbeyto said.

But unions are concerned about current working conditions in auto plants.

Benedicto Martínez is a coordinator of Frente Auténtico del Trabajo, one of the unions in Mexico with members in the automotive industry. He said unions are watching the pandemic protocols carefully at factories.

Pedro Tello, an economic analyst in Mexico City, said reigniting the auto industry will help normalize the country’s economy. But he points out large companies in Mexico, like automakers, have not received any tax incentives or loans from the federal government, and that the country may lose companies and jobs.

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COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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