Congressional labor champions cheered the Labor Department’s decision Friday to accept a petition filed by U.S. and Colombian labor unions alleging the South American country is failing to comply with labor rules under its free trade deal with the U.S. “Labor provisions in our free trade agreements with other countries mean nothing if they are not enforced,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s clear Colombia has ignored labor violations and failed to uphold the agreement’s protections for workers who want to organize. Today’s decision by DOL sends a signal that the U.S. is committed to rooting out mistreatment of workers and raising labor standards around the world.”
Last week, Brown joined a group of his colleagues in a letter to DOL Secretary Tom Perez urging swift action against the Colombian Government for its failure to uphold the labor protections in the U.S.-Colombia TPA.
Rep. Sander Levin said he has met in recent weeks with Colombian Labor Minister Clara Lopez, Colombian labor unions and U.S. administration officials. “In vital respects, there has been a disturbing failure by Colombia to implement key requirements under the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement,” Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement . “Included is the end of abusive subcontracting in all forms as required by the Labor Action Plan, thereby denying workers their basic right to be represented as provided in the FTA, as well as the overwhelming impunity for those committing violence against labor union activists.”
‘The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA) gives notice that on July 15, 2016, Submission #2016-02 regarding Colombia was accepted for review pursuant to Article 17.5.5 of the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA). On May 16, 2015, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and five Colombian workers’ and civil society organizations provided a formal submission to OTLA alleging violations of Chapter 17 (the Labor Chapter) of the CTPA by the Government of Colombia (GOC). The submission alleges that the GOC has failed to effectively enforce its labor laws through a sustained and recurring course of action or inaction in a manner that affects trade or investment; waived or otherwise derogated from its statutes or regulations in a manner affecting trade or investment; failed to adopt and maintain in its statutes and regulations, and practices thereunder, the rights as stated in the International Labor Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (ILO Declaration); failed to ensure the proceedings in its administrative, judicial, or labor tribunals are transparent and do not entail unwarranted delays; and failed to ensure that final decisions in such proceedings are made available without undue delay.
“OTLA’s decision to accept the submission for review does not indicate any determination as to the validity or accuracy of the allegations contained in the submission. The objective of the review will be to gather information so that OTLA can better understand the allegations contained in the submission and publicly report on the issues raised therein in light of the GOC’s obligations under the Labor Chapter of the CTPA. As set out in the Procedural Guidelines (published as 71 FR 76691, December 21,2006), OTLA will complete the review and issue a public report to the Secretary of Labor within 180 days of this acceptance, unless circumstances, as determined by OTLA, require an extension of time.”