Colombia has yet to comply with a series of labor reforms that were required by US Congress to allow a bilateral free trade pact, US Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said Tuesday.
The Congressman sent out a press release following a meeting with Colombia’s Labor Minister Luis Eduardo Garzon the day before.
During his trip to Washington, Garzon boldly claimed that the Labor Action Plan (LAP), an agreement in which Colombia vowed to improve labor rights in the country, “has already been complied with.”
While the Democrat recognized progress made by the Colombian government, McGovern does “not believe the Labor Action Plan has been fulfilled.”
“The reality facing workers outside of [the capital] Bogota remains difficult and often perilous,” countered the US congressman.
“Workers attempting to organize and negotiate better working conditions and wages consistently face the threat of violence, including murder, and the loss of their jobs. Few if any of these murders, assaults, bombings, let alone hundreds of death threats, are fully investigated and prosecuted. Illegal sub-contracting remains common,” claimed McGovern, a member of the congressional Monitoring Group on Labor Rights in Colombia.
The Congressman claimed the Colombian government has failed to effectively implement worker protection policies, as “inspections by the Labor Ministry are infrequent and uneven in quality. And when sanctions are levied against abusive employers, they are generally ignored,” said the Congressman.
McGovern’s concerns are consistent with that of the US government; In April, political website Politico said that according to the US Trade Representative, “Colombia still lacks the institutional capacity to collect many of the large fines it has imposed for labor rights violations and, while the government has made progress in reducing the abusive use of ‘labor intermediaries’, some companies have found new ways to avoid directly hiring workers to save costs.”
“The Government of Colombia has made meaningful progress under the Action Plan, but much important work remains to solidify and build on this progress to improve respect for labor rights in Colombia,” Politico quoted the USTR as saying.
Colombian labor unions have blasted the execution of the agreement. The LAP, and the free trade agreement of which it is a part, has been “useless and detrimental for both the Colombian economy and the rights of workers,” said Tarcisio Rivera, president of a national labor unions confederation CUT, in an interview with Colombia Reports earlier this year.
The LAP was agreed between Bogota and Washington as a requisite for a free trade agreement between the two countries to take effect.
In the agreement, Colombia vowed to increase security for trade unionists and work on reducing a backlog of unsolved labor-related murder cases as well as take other steps to “implement a broader and more effective regime to protect labor rights.”
The US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was signed in November 2006 under then-President George W. Bush. Implementation of the agreement was delayed, however, due to serious concerns regarding violence against Colombian union leaders, and an institutional failure failure to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.
In 2011, Presidents Barack Obama and Juan Manuel Santos launched the Labor Action Plan which promised to improve worker’s rights in Colombia with the assistance of the US government. The agreement was passed by the US Congress in October 2011.
The FTA came into force half a year later.