Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced plans to increase resources for the protection of union workers by 50% for 2012, in accordance with the labor rights focus of the U.S.-Colombia bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), the president’s office reported Tuesday.
Speaking in audience with Colombia’s General Confederation of Workers (CGT), Santos said that the program to protect union workers, which currently covers around 1,500 workers, will contract 100 new inspectors over the next year, who will be responsible for ensuring that labor cooperatives are not taking advantage of their members.
Santos said that the pending FTA is the only one of its kind, because it does not only regulate the movement of goods and services, but also protects workers rights, and emphasized the fact that the trade agreement “contains a labor chapter that guarantees the rights of workers in both countries.”
The chapter is intended to guarantee the application of labor laws that protect workers and to ensure “that neither country can make its labor laws more lax, to the detriment of the workers, in order to make their products more competitive.”
The president stated that, ultimately, the goal is “to reach a level of security and of tranquility in the country that allows us to live and to work without needing this protection.”
A week ago, Santos met with a delegation of six U.S. Congressmen who indicated that the FTA approval process should go smoothly from this point on, given that the Colombian administration has demonstrated dedication to improving the country’s on-the-ground human rights situation. The group expressed their belief that the FTA could be put before Congress by the summer.