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Report Asserts Labor Violations in Dominican Republic Sugar Sector

Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Labor released Sept. 27 a report finding evidence of apparent and potential violations of labor law in the Dominican Republic’s sugar sector. The report details an investigation conducted in response to a public submission filed under the labor chapter of DR-CAFTA, but Inside US Trade quotes a department spokeswoman as stating that “the report does not make a determination with regard to the labor obligations” under DR-CAFTA and “does not include a recommendation to the Labor Secretary on whether to initiate cooperative labor consultations at this time.”

According to a DOL press release, the violations identified have to do with (1) acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health, such as payments below the minimum wage, 12-hour work days, seven-day work weeks, lack of potable water and the absence of safety equipment; (2) a minimum age for the employment of children and the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor; and (3) a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor. The report also discusses the department's concerns with respect to freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining as well as procedural and methodological shortcomings in the labor inspection process that undermine the government's capacity to identify labor violations.

The report offers 11 recommendations to the DR government to address the report's findings and improve enforcement of Dominican labor laws in the sugar sector. These recommendations include providing training for labor inspectors on methods and best practices for identifying forced labor and strengthening enforcement of the Labor Code provision prohibiting forced labor. The DOL will work with the DR government to develop time-bound steps and measurable milestones by which to monitor and assess progress and will review the implementation of these recommendations six months and then 12 months after publication of the report.

The department also announced a $10 million, four-year project to reduce child labor and improve labor rights and working conditions in the Dominican sugar sector.

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