New Report: Trade Union Murders in Colombia Exceed Rest of World; USTR: Colombia Making Great Progress on Labor Rights

A new report issued on June 8, 2011 by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that more trade unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2010 than in the rest of the world combined. According to the ITUC 2011 Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights, 49 of the 90 trade unionists murdered in 2010 were killed in Colombia.**

The report was followed a few days later by a June 13 press release from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk praising the Colombian government for meeting all the steps agreed to in an April Labor Action Plan, intended to pave the way for a vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement as soon as July.  

USLEAP is highly skeptical of the perfect report card given by USTR and expects a report soon from Colombia that will provide a more balanced analysis.  It has become quite clear that the Obama Administration will move a vote on the Colombia FTA regardless of any developments on the ground in Colombia, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton having already promised that the Colombia FTA will pass this year.  Any delay in the vote will be due to political considerations; the Colombia FTA and two other pending FTAs are currently on hold pending resolution of a dispute between the Administration and Republicans over renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. that assists U.S. workers who lose their jobs to trade.

The Administration is asking worker rights advocates to believe that after over two decades of violence and impunity and other widespread violations that Colombia has now magically turned the corner on the basis of a Labor Action Plan signed in April.

As USLEAP and others have noted, the Plan has no enforcement measures and pressure for compliance will end as soon as the Colombia FTA is implemented.  The Plan, which contains some positive features if fully implemented, must be given time to demonstrate concrete results in reducing violence and ending impunity, let alone addressing other long-standing obstacles to the exercise of basic worker rights.  And there is not even a “Plan” to address violence against other human rights defenders or the negative impact that the FTA is expected to have on small farmers, Afro-Colombians and the environment.

In an interview with Inside US Trade, USLEAP also expressed concern about the effectiveness to date of the labor protections of existing free trade agreements with respect to the basic issue of violence, citing the recent murder of an Executive Committee member of one of the unions in Guatemala who filed the first labor complaint under the Central America Free Trade Agreement.  

Take Action.  USLEAP has updated its fact sheets and other materials in the Colombia Tool Kit to reflect the new ITUC numbers.  

**For Colombia data, USLEAP uses the material published by the Escuela Nacional Sindical which cites 51 murders in Colombia in 2011.