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USTR and Department of Labor Issue Five-Year Update on the Colombian Labor Action Plan and Welcome New Decree on Illegal Subcontracting

Washington, D.C. – Marking the five-year anniversary of the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Department of Labor today issued a report on progress under the plan.  The report finds that there has been meaningful progress across a number of areas, including a decline in fake worker cooperatives that undermine workers’ rights, a reduction in violence against labor unionists, and a doubling of the number of labor inspectors in Colombia’s Ministry of Labor.  The report also shows that there are challenges remaining that Colombia is working to address.  Notably, in recent years, as the government of Colombia has taken action against illegal cooperatives, there has been increasing abuse of other kinds of subcontracting.  In response, President Santos and Minister of Labor Garzon have just issued a new Presidential Decree to help inspectors investigate and apply potentially very significant fines to employers that use such other forms of subcontracting to violate labor rights.  This decree is an important step forward and, if robustly enforced, could have a significant impact on the ground for workers.

“The Labor Action Plan has given us a critical framework to engage Colombia on labor issues that, at one time, were written off as intractable, such as the issue of illegal subcontracting,” said Ambassador Michael Froman. “At the time the Plan was developed, a key issue was fake cooperatives.  As Colombia cracked down on that, other forms began to take their place.  We’ve been able to keep working with Colombia on this and now there is a new decree to address the more recent forms of abusive subcontracting.  We are committed to continuing to work with Colombia on implementation, bringing us closer to a level playing field for workers both in Colombia and in this country.”

In the context of congressional consideration of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, the Obama administration negotiated the Action Plan with the government of Colombia to address critical labor issues.  These issues included violence against trade union members and leaders and impunity for these acts, as well as protection of core labor rights.  The two governments initialed the Action Plan on April 7, 2011, and since then, the Obama administration has worked closely with Colombia to implement the plan.  USTR and the Department of Labor, in coordination with the Department of State will continue to coordinate with Colombian labor authorities on ongoing issues under the plan, including through the efforts of a new Labor Attaché who was stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá in 2015 to directly support these efforts on the ground.

To view the report on the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights, please click here.