MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's lower house of Congress on Friday gave provisional approval to a bill that would mark the biggest shake-up of the country's labor market in four decades.

In a show of cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto backed the bill, which the PRI had gutted of measures aimed at curbing the power of unions.

The draft law to soften antiquated labor rules was put forward by outgoing President Felipe Calderon, whose conservative National Action Party (PAN) wanted to weaken unions that have long formed a keystone of support for the PRI.

Critics say abuses by corrupt unions affiliated to the PRI have been detrimental to democracy and economic development.

The lower house must still debate some points on the bill but this is expected to be a formality. It then passes to the Senate which will have 30 days to approve or reject it.

The bill approved will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers, streamline the settlement of time-consuming labor lawsuits and formally regulate outsourcing.

Before it reached a vote, a PRI-dominated congressional working group stripped out measures mandating that the election of union leadership be free, direct and secret, and that union members receive information on how their funds are spent.

The bill also excluded provisions that would have made unions submit to public audits, and set time limits on strikes.

(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Richard Chang)




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