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“Significant Concerns” on Colombia’s Labor Law Enforcement in DOL Report

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

In response to a July 2016 submission alleging that the government of Colombia has violated the labor chapter of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement in various ways, the Department of Labor’s Office of Trade and Labor Affairs recently issued a report identifying what it said were significant concerns regarding Colombian labor law enforcement as well as concerns with the prosecution of cases of anti-union violence.

The submission alleged that the Colombian government has failed to effectively enforce its labor laws related to the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; has failed to adopt and maintain in its statutes, regulations, and practices the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining; and has failed to comply with the procedural guarantees enumerated in the TPA labor chapter.

A DOL press release states that the report recognizes meaningful progress made by Colombia over the last few years but also identifies concerns regarding the government’s Labor Inspectorate, inspection processes, and collection of fines, concluding that issues in these areas adversely affect enforcement of labor laws on freedom of association and collective bargaining. The report also details ongoing concerns that the government is not taking sufficient action to enforce prohibitions on abusive subcontracting and the use of “collective pacts,” both of which may be used to undermine freedom of association and collective bargaining. The report further expresses concern about the adequacy of investigations and prosecutions in cases of anti-union threats and violence as well as criminal cases of infringement of workers’ fundamental rights.

The report provides 19 recommendations on how Colombia can address these problems and recommends up to nine months of “contact point” consultations between the OTLA and Colombia’s labor ministry. The AFL-CIO notes that it is “not clear what will happen after that,” stating that the U.S. “chose not to pursue the specific kind of consultations that would allow for swiftly moving to dispute resolution at this time but could do so in the future.”

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