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Top Colombia Labor School Reports that Labor Action Plan is Insufficient and Poorly Implemented
The highly-respected National Labor School in Colombia (ENS) just published a critical report of the Colombian government’s implementation of the Free Trade Agreement Labor Action Plan six months after the Plan’s release, finding that violence and worker protests continue, social dialogue stagnates, and the minimal changes that have been made have failed to impact Colombian workers. The report comes at a critical time as the House of Representatives prepares to vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement as early as next Wednesday.
Under the Labor Action Plan, the Colombian government was required to meet benchmarks on several separate deadlines that responded to issues such as: continuing violence against unionists, the use of labor cooperatives and subcontracting, and protecting the right to organize and collectively bargain. In spite of containing some important measures, the Plan garnered early criticism by its neglect to require an actual reduction in violence against unionists and impunity and inability to ensure compliance with labor reforms once the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is implemented. The Plan also does not address other concerns surrounding the FTA, like human rights violations and the internal displacement of Afro-Colombians.
Six months after the Labor Action Plan’s release, the National Labor School (ENS) reports that the little progress initiated by the Plan has not trickled down to Colombian workers. Today, the three largest union confederations in Colombia and the union federations of public employees went on strike, calling for an end to outsourcing, subcontracting, and negligent working conditions. Mobilization in other sectors, like oil, ports, and palm oil plantations, has also increased since the Plan’s implementation.
Over all, ENS reports that none of the measures adopted by the Colombian government have been fully implemented. Business owners and public leaders continue to violate labor and union rights, weak contracts and anti-union practices abound, and the government refuses to engage in the social dialogue that could lead to comprehensive, long-term solutions. Nevertheless, the Obama Administration has given the Colombian government a gold star for each Labor Action Plan deadline, clearly determined to pass the Colombia Free Trade Agreement without waiting for actual progress.
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