A new report published Monday has listed Colombia as one of the “worst countries in the world to work in” due to extremely poor labor rights.
The report published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), ranks Colombia as part of a group of countries where most problems are recorded to exercise labor rights.
Autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices
“While the legislation may spell out certain rights workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices”
The report, presented at the World Congress of the ITUC, held this week Berlin ranks Colombia as a category 5 country, which is describes as, “worst countries in the world to work in.”
“While the legislation may spell out certain rights workers have effectively no access to these rights and are therefore exposed to autocratic regimes and unfair labor practices.” the report continues.
The report of the ITUC states that, “the guarantee of the free exercise of workers’ rights is also a guarantee of a more equal and a more prosperous society. When workers enjoy the freedom of a collective voice, can bargain for safe workplaces and fair wages and conditions and are free from discrimination then productivity and economic growth can flourish.”
However, the report states that, “abuses of rights are getting worse not better and too many countries take no responsibility for protecting workers rights in a national context or through corporate supply chains.”
The only other country in Latin America to be similarly categorized is Guatemala which itself is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist according to the ITUC.
Among the other 23 countries around the world to be ranked as category 5 appear Zimbabwe, Cambodia and Saudi Arabia.
Only category 5+ which includes countries where the rule of law has collapsed is worse than category 5.
In an interview with the Central Unit of Colombian Workers (CUT), a spokesperson said that Colombian workers suffer from an oppression on two fronts; from the government and from the effects of the ongoing armed conflict.
Labor Action Plan
Furthermore he cited the free trade agreement with the United States as further undermining the working conditions of Colombian workers.
“Since the 1990s there has been a greater control by the United States over Colombia” he continued.
He added that, ” the use of violence is used by the state and different governments to stop the workers movement and act against them.”
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 US-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP) was developed in response to congressional critics in the United States who refused to pass the US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA) due to concerns over widespread labor violations in Colombia and the country’s history of targeted violence against labor organizers.
Improved labor conditions were supposed to be a key element in the implementation of broader free trade. So far, however, the LAP has failed to produce sustained and meaningful changes in the reality faced by workers.
“During the past 3 years of the LAP, 73 trade unionists were assassinated, 31 suffered attempted murders, six were forcibly disappeared and hundreds of others received death threats,” said Gimena Sanchez, a senior associate on Colombia at the Washington Office on Latin America.
In the past the LAP has as been deemed “useless” by Colombian labor leaders, who say the Colombian government has not lived up to its responsibilities to ensure workers’ rights.
Colombia has already been listed in the past as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists, with 29 union workers killed in 2011 according to the ITUC.
“Colombia’s brings attention to itself for the levels of violence directed towards workers” said the CUT spokesperson.
In 2012, at least 18 unionists where killed in Colombia and 359 received death threats.
- 2014 ITUC Global Rights Index (International Trade Union Confederation)
- Countries at risk: 2013 Report on Violations of Trade Union Rights (International Trade Union Confederation)
- Interview with Central Unit of Colombian Workers (CUT)