How has COVID-19 impacted the mining union, and how have you adapted to this new reality in Mexico?
I do believe “impact" is the right word, because it has impacted us greatly. We are evaluating new possibilities. Everyone is being impacted by this dire situation. The numbers are telling; 800,000 jobs—across all industries—will disappear due to the crisis. Mining is essential to the development of a country and the world, so the fact that we were not considered an essential activity from the beginning affected us. According to the government and Ministry of Health, only 30% of our miners will go back to work. We plan to follow the rules, as we are invested in safekeeping our workers' health. However, this course of action should have been announced a long time ago. We hope the measures to boost the economy help with the recovery of the mining sector. Mexico's economy is not doing well at this moment. We make up 8% of GDP. We only want economic stability for our workers; they need their jobs.
What are your suggestions for businesses and the management of this contingency?
Fortunately, we have great relations with companies. The mining sector was not completely shut down, because it was still necessary to have well-built walls, pumping, and so on. It is all a process that cannot just be shut down. It is great that companies will apply the measures, though most companies were already doing so. It will not be difficult for most companies as they were already implementing safety measures, isolating cases, and more. I will share a fact that astounds everyone: those mines that were not shut down do not have any cases. That is what people are unable to see. With all due respect, our workers are safer with us than at home; they are being tested and attended to by the company's own doctors when necessary. If a company has even the slightest doubt, the possibly infected worker will be isolated, and every employee gets tested. Families should stay at home, and miners should be able to work in a safe environment. We are following all the health measures. It is all a collective effort. Health inspections are essential, as health is our priority; our job as the union is to make sure every company follows the rules to protect workers.
How are you helping miners accept that this situation might last for a year or two?
The workers are aware; they are not oblivious to global developments. We have solid communication with our workers, indicating safety protocols, how to take care of our children, elderly, pregnant and nursing women, those with preexisting conditions, and so on. We mandated that vulnerable workers stay at home. In the mining industry, we have a base salary and a productivity salary, and the latter is being affected by this situation. Companies are helping with this. We know this is a temporary situation, and we are learning every day how to manage it in the best possible way for workers.
How have your vision and priorities changed, at least for now?
Both have changed a fair bit. This is a learning experience we never expected. Personally, as a federal representative, I heard about the preventive measures in December 2019 from another federal representative who is a doctor. She was worried about it back then, and it allowed some of us to prepare. However, Mexico was not prepared for this. Safety measures should have been initiated earlier; the health sector knew this was coming. Sadly, many did not pay attention, and now we have many confirmed cases and a painful number of deaths. We are all adapting to the situation. Social distancing, masks—we have to do whatever it takes, not only miners but all Mexicans. This has shown us how important it is to take care of one another.