By Daina Beth Solomon
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The United Auto Workers (UAW) union on Friday pressed General Motors and Mexican officials to step up efforts to ensure workers at a pick-up truck plant in central Mexico can vote freely next month to choose a new union.
The election will allow some 7,000 workers at the plant in the city of Silao to choose among four new unions in line with a Mexican labor reform aimed at ensuring freedom of association, a key tenet of a new trade deal with the United States and Canada.
A vote last year on the collective contract was initially marred by irregularities including destroyed ballots, prompting the U.S. government to demand ramped-up scrutiny in a formal complaint under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Workers eventually voted to dissolve the contract, opening the door to elect a new union.
UAW President Ray Curry, whose group represents U.S. GM workers, said labor inspectors should be immediately sent to Silao to ensure the plant is "free from coercion and intimidation" ahead of the vote on Feb. 1 and 2.
For decades, workers at companies across Mexico have often faced intimidation tied to contentious union votes and efforts to organize.
Curry's remarks echoed similar concerns in recent days from U.S. labor federation AFL-CIO, Canadian union Unifor and Italian metalworkers union FIOM.
"We are concerned by the lack of protection for workers' rights inside the GM plant," the AFL-CIO said this week.
GM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. officials in September closed the GM complaint about last year's vote, but the U.S. Department of Labor and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative are still tracking the issue, noted a report this week from a U.S. government labor committee.
(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Sandra Maler)