Guatemala, U.S. Discuss Labor Enforcement Plan Implementation



Published on 11 March 2014


by Office of the Spokesperson

(WireNews+Co)

Washington, D.C.

U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez met March 6 with Guatemalan Trade Minister Sergio de la Torre and Guatemalan Labor Minister Carlos Contreras to discuss the implementation of the Labor Enforcement Plan signed between the two countries in 2013.

“We will continue to work with our partners to strengthen enforcement of labor rights in Guatemala, Froman said. “Today’s meeting was an important opportunity to assess what progress has been made and where further efforts are necessary.”

Since the sides agreed to the enforcement plan, the Guatemalan government has taken a variety of measures, including hiring 100 additional inspectors and passing important legal reforms on issues such as ensuring police assistance to facilitate labor inspector access to work sites and verifying employer compliance with labor court orders.

A USTR summary of the meeting says Froman made clear that the United States believes further action is urgently needed to implement the enforcement plan. If these concerns are not addressed by April 25, USTR said, the United States reserves the right to restart the dispute settlement proceedings that were suspended as a result of the enforcement plan.

In 2011, the United States requested a dispute settlement panel against Guatemala under the Dominican Republic-Central America–United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) to ensure enforcement of that country’s labor laws. It was the first such action taken by the United States under the labor provisions of a free trade agreement.

On April 26, 2013, the United States and Guatemala signed the 18-point enforcement plan outlining concrete actions to strengthen labor law enforcement in Guatemala.

Under the enforcement plan, inspectors would have more resources and better access to work sites. An expedited process for sanctioning labor law violators and ordering them to remedy the violations is in the works, USTR said. Exporters who break labor laws would have their tax benefits revoked. Labor courts would be made more accountable for enforcing their orders.

Guatemala committed to implementing the plan within six months. The dispute settlement panel is currently suspended to allow Guatemala time to follow through on these commitments. If it fails to do so, the panel resumes.

Guatemala has adopted a number of reforms, consistent with applicable deadlines, but implementation of those reforms is key to improving worker rights in Guatemala, USTR said.



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Posted 2014-03-11 13:12:00