By Anthony Harrup

MEXICO CITY--Mexico won a panel ruling in connection with a dispute about worker representation at a local mine on the grounds that the matter predated the USMCA, the nation's trade pact with the U.S. and Canada, the government said on Friday.

The U.S. Trade Representative's office in August requested a rapid response panel to rule on the matter after Mexico rejected assertions by the U.S. that workers at the lead, zinc and copper mine in Zacatecas state, operated by mining and railroad conglomerate Grupo Mexico, were denied rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining.

A petition filed by the AFL-CIO, the United Steel Workers, and Mexico's main miners' union alleged that Grupo Mexico resumed operations at the mine despite an ongoing strike and engaged in collective bargaining with a workers coalition other than the Mexican miners union.

Mexico's Economy and Labor ministries said in a statement on Friday that the panel determined it didn't have jurisdiction to rule on the matter, and that the denial of union rights can only be ascribed to events that occurred after the USMCA went into effect and subject to 2019 changes in Mexican labor laws.

The ruling establishes a precedent against the retroactive application of trade agreements, the ministries said.

Numerous petitions under labor provisions of the USMCA have been settled without the involvement of a dispute panel since the trade pact took effect in 2020.

"Although Grupo México repeatedly denied workers union and collective bargaining rights during the 16 years of the labor dispute at the mine, these irregularities have been or are being corrected by national authorities who do have jurisdiction over the matter," the ministries said.

They said the Mexican conciliation and arbitration board had already ordered the company to pay back wages and other benefits.

Grupo Mexico welcomed the ruling and commended Mexican authorities for their actions in the case. The company said in a statement that the miners union made "frivolous and unfounded demands" and that its leader sought to take to international jurisdictions matters that should be settled in Mexico.

Write to Anthony Harrup at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-26-24 1737ET