I am pleased that the report released today by the Department of Labor in response to our submission on Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement found significant evidence of inadequate labor inspection and enforcement, abusive subcontracting, failure to prosecute threats and violence against unionists and other failures. While the report is an important first step towards ensuring Colombian workers can fully and freely exercise their labor rights, it is critical that the United States not repeat mistakes of the past which have resulted in years-long delays of other labor complaints.
While we are pleased to see the report recommend a relatively brief nine-month dialogue period, the U.S. government failed to pursue consultations under Article 17.7, which would enable the U.S. to move most quickly to dispute settlement. We are hopeful that if Colombia is not in full compliance with its trade obligations at the end of this period, the U.S. government will immediately enter into the 17.7 consultations rather than duplicating the unacceptable delays that have plagued other cases, most notably the Guatemala process which is now approaching its 9th year without a resolution.
The report finds significant barriers to Colombian workers exercising their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining although it failed to explicitly address the use of violence by Colombian security forces. As the report notes, bilateral discussions have been ongoing for many years. The costs of further delays have very real and unacceptably high consequences for Colombia’s workers, and we hope that both governments work towards swiftly and meaningfully improving access to justice.
Contact: Gonzalo Salvador (202) 637-5018