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Despite Labor Action Plan, Colombian Unionists Still Targeted for Death

Photo via Justice for Colombia

In the four years since the United States and Colombia signed the Labor Action Plan—a precursor  to the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement—to address entrenched labor rights violations, Colombian workers have suffered more than 1,933 threats and acts of violence, including 105 assassinations of union activists and 1,337 death threats, according to the latest report  issued by Escuela Nacional Sindical (Colombia’s National Union School).

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the report:

Demonstrates that there has been virtually no progress over the past year in compliance with the LAP. It is evident that the campaign of intimidation against Colombia’s workers struggling to defend their rights continues unabated.

Colombia has long been recognized as one of the deadliest and most dangerous countries for trade unionists. In February, seven unionists were shot at by masked gunmen in Cali. 

Along with the violence aimed at unionists, the report notes that there are countless instances of retaliation against workers organizing unions that go unreported and unaddressed by Colombian authorities, including illegal firings, nonrenewal of worker contracts and daily harassment.

According to the report, illegal forms of hiring that restrict workers’ rights have not subsided. Discrimination against workers exercising their rights has intensified. Less than 9% of the fines imposed against violating employers were in the LAP’s priority sectors. Colombia exports goods in industries that violate labor rights. Finally, there is no evidence that fines are being collected. In the ENS’s rigorous assessment of Colombia’s compliance with the LAP, it categorically assigns a failing grade in almost every measure included in the agreement.

Trumka said:

The AFL-CIO continues to stand with its Colombian brothers and sisters in demanding real action and full compliance, and supports every effort to help Colombia move toward a sustainable peace that includes full respect for fundamental labor rights.

He also said that as the U.S. government negotiates broad trade agreements with Europe and the Pacific Rim, it must look back at the LAP’s continued failure to protect workers’ rights in Colombia and not commit the same mistakes.

It must ensure that these agreements deliver on the promises made for over 20 years about the broader benefits of expanding trade. Investors and companies have received these benefits. Workers in the U.S. and countries that are our trading partners have not. We deserve it. 

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