In the mid 2000's I acquired an El Paso, TX based trucking operation and spent much of my time early on visiting and getting to know my new customers across the border in Juarez, Mexico. Juarez is fascinating, hustling, bustling border city, full of all of the good and bad elements that come with the US-Mexico border. One evening over dinner and drinks at Maria Chuchena's with a customer (highly recommended, and don't worry about the chalk body outlines on the sidewalk, the drug cartels only aim at rivals, are relatively good shots, and are otherwise generally nice people). Jorge was the GM of a Maquiladora in Juarez, he was discussing hiring and retention issues in his plant with factory workers. For those unfamiliar with the term, Maquiladora is a generic reference for a manufacturing plant in Mexico, owned by a foreign (non-Mexican) corporation.
"Jorge" as we'll call him, was explaining his struggle with hiring and retaining factory workers. There are literally hundreds of large manufacturing plants in Juarez and the competition for workers has become fierce over the years. Originally chosen as an excellent location for bountiful, low cost labor, the plants were constantly battling the same issues with retention and recruiting that face trucking companies today.
Jorge described his plants initial approach to the problem, which was simple, made sense and all the executives were on board with the idea. Pay them more than anyone else. A lot more. Not double, not triple, but quadruple. Yes, four times what the other factories were paying. This was based on formula on the cost of idle plant time and how soon they could be running at full production, etc. This will stop the turnover. This will cut the hiring costs and we can increase much needed production. Why wouldn't this solve the problem? Surely the local labor force would be knocking the door down and lined up to work at the factory. I agreed, and was impressed with this bold plan, it sounded like an excellent idea. I was on the edge of my seat as I ordered another round for us as Jorge continued his story...
So it was announced on a Friday afternoon. The word spread quickly and echoed across the rolling hills of Chihuahua and they came...and did they ever, not by the hundreds, but, by the thousands, to work at his plant. When Jorge was driving into work early on Monday morning, he saw the streets lined with people. His first thoughts were of the late, great Senor Villa and his revolution, and that the good people of Mexico had risen once again to claim their country and his plant. (Apparently, this is a somewhat realistic fear of the “haves” in this border city, and given their history, maybe should it should be...)
More tomorrow –
©MICHAEL KOMADINA 2012