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Colombia Still Working Toward Full Implementation of FTA Labor Commitments, U.S. Says

Friday, November 15, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The U.S. and Colombia will hold two technical-level meetings and one senior officials meeting in 2014 as they work to achieve “full implementation” of the commitments in the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights. A Department of Labor press release states that while Colombia has made some progress in this direction, several areas of mutual concern remain, including the collection of fines imposed for labor violations, targeted inspections in the five identified priority sectors (palm oil, sugar, mines, ports and flowers), the investigation and sanction of all forms of abusive contracting, the status of hiring labor inspectors in line with action plan commitments, and violence and threats against trade unionists and continued impunity for the perpetrators.

The action plan was developed in 2011 ahead of the implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement. Earlier this year the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said there had been “important advances” in implementing this plan, including “a dramatic reduction in the use of illegal cooperatives, partly the result of unprecedented fines against companies in violation of new laws; the passage of new labor laws that expand the application of fines to address other forms of illegal contracting; and increased efforts to reduce violence and impunity, including by strengthening protection programs and improving the management and prosecution of labor homicide cases.”

In late October, however, Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and James McGovern, D-Mass., released a report asserting that “many of the historic promises of increased protections and improved conditions for workers and activists [in the action plan] have yet to be realized.” The report acknowledged that the government of Colombia “has undertaken important measures to protect workers’ fundamental rights and that many government officials are working to implement the action plan and improve working conditions in the country.” Nevertheless, the report concluded, the government of Colombia “is woefully falling short of compliance” with the action plan and “in many cases, these shortfalls have made working conditions for workers worse than before it came into effect.”

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