Thursday, September 29, 2016

Colombia: Violence against trade unionists impacts OECD bid, trade relations with U.S.

My two recent pieces on labor issues in Colombia  highlight how important effective protection of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are to a country's participation in the global community.

The first piece in The International Employment Lawyer USA - Department of Labor Accepts First Labor Petition Under US-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (Fall 2016) discusses the recent labor petition filed by Colombian trade unions and the AFL-CIO under the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement.  At issue is whether or not the Government of Colombia has fully complied with labor-related commitments in the FTA and a 2011 Labor Rights Action Plan outlining a number of pre-conditions to be met by Colombia before the FTA went into effect.  If Colombia cannot effectively protect trade unionists from murder and violence, it risks losing U.S. trade benefits.

The second piece in IntLawGrrls Violence against trade unionists, application of labor laws at issue in Colombia’s bid for OECD membership (September 2016) discusses labor and social protection issues related to Colombia's bid to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  The OECD's 2016 report on labor and social protection in Colombia highlights the same issues raised by Colombian and U.S. trade unions - including failure to protect trade unionists from violence - as areas of improvement to be addressed before Colombia can joint the club of elite governments in the OECD.  If Colombia cannot find a way to improve Rule of Law and protect trade unionists from murder and threats of violence, it may fail in its bid to join the OECD.

Now that Colombia has signed a Peace Agreement with the FARC, it will be interesting to see whether efforts on an international level and within Colombia will lead to meaningful change for Colombian workers.