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The Precarious state of labour rights in Colombia

Resolution 2628 of the European Parliament

The Resolution 2628 of the European Parliament, signed on the 13th of June 2012 and popularly called the Road Map of the FTA between Colombia-Peru-Ecuador and the European Union (EU), can be understood as reinforcing and broadening the scope of the 2011 Obama-Santos Labour Action Plan (LAP). In all, the Resolution 2628 comprises numerous themes related to labour and union rights, many of which closely follow the obligations of Colombia’s government, set out in the LAP. Nevertheless, in certain cases the focus of the European Parliament (from here on, EP) varies: while the LAP is more emphatic in terms of the demands it makes on Colombia’s government, the EP proposes more general objectives which are often more difficult to quantify.

The underlying thread of the Resolution is the EP’s desire to ensure that the Colombian government acts to protect human rights in the country, guaranteeing that any obstacles to their daily fulfilment will be punished and that Colombian workers can go about their daily activities comfortable in the knowledge that their labour rights will be respected and indeed, protected.

The origin of the EP’s Resolution 2628, understood as a formal request made to Colombia’s government, is based on the elimination of the regime of the European Union’s (EU) System of Commercial Preferences (SPG+), after the FTA in question was ratified, widening the scope of commercial relations between the signatory countries but now without the formal obligation that the Andean countries involved effectively applied 27 of the Conventions concerning fundamental human rights (particularly those related to the four core labour rights of the ILO) and environmental rights. The SPG+ system was composed of two special regimes, one that favoured less-developed countries, and another that looked to stimulate sustainable development and governance.1

Alongside Colombia and Peru, between 2009 and 2011, 14 countries benefitted from the SPG+ regime. Although the EU has never sanctioned a country included in the SPG+ regime and despite many experts questioning the level of rigour with which the 27 Conventions are applied in certain countries, others have argued that both the EU’s SPG+ regime and the United States’ (US) SPG system provide “more guarantees than the other FTAs signed in recent years”.2

The ratification and partial implementation of the FTA between the EU and Colombia-Peru (and more recently, Ecuador3) ended the validity and commercial preferences offered to these countries under the SPG+. In its place, as a means of supporting the protection of human rights, the FTA in question included an analogous clause, signed by Colombia in the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation EU-CAN in 2003. This clause, included in all the FTA’s negotiated by the EU, underlines the necessity that partner nations respect fundamental human rights. In the case of violation of any of these rights, the EU will adopt “appropriate” measures that are covered by International Law. Additionally, the FTA in question contains a chapter on Commerce and Sustainable Development (Title 11), which includes social clauses that require the adherence to ILO core labour standards, the ratification and effective implementation of ILO fundamental conventions and the promotion of a decent work agenda.4 As a means of protecting and enforcing the ILO’s fundamental labour rights, chapter 11 states that these will be “observed and applied by the respective labour legislations of the signatories”.

Despite these reflections and observations concerning the necessity to ensure the respect and protection of human rights, in practice, Colombia is far from complying with a number of the ILO fundamental conventions and the specific clauses set out in Chapter 9 of the FTA. As a result, following the LAP model, the EP, especially due to the pressure exerted by specific parliamentarians, requested the Colombian government to formally stipulate a road map for improvements that would guarantee and better protect the human and environmental rights of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. This road map was formalized via Resolution 2628, which intended to highlight certain actions and improvements necessary which the Colombian government must comply with in order to ensure the continuity, without formal controversies, of the FTA with the EU.

This report examines the level of compliance of each of the requests included in the Resolution 2628, specifically regarding labour and union themes, as a means of evaluating the performance of the Colombian government in terms of the commitments it made to the EP.

1 See: Siroën, Jean-Marc. (2013). “Disposiciones laborales en los tratados de libre comercio: balance y perspectivas”. Revista Internacional del trabajo. Vol. 132, N° 1 (pp.99-122).
2 See: Polaski y Vyborny, cited by: Siroën, Jean-Marc. 2013, op cit., p.109.
3 Ecuador y la Unión Europea firmaron el Protocolo de Adhesión a este Acuerdo en noviembre de 2016.
4 See: Tuininga, Madelaine. 2017. “Trade and Sustainable Development chapters in EU Trade Agreements. Brussels, 11 September. Head of Unit, DG Trade D1 Trade and Sustainable Development, European Commission. http://www.amfori.org/sites/default/files/TSD%20Chapters%20in%20FTA_discussion%20enforcement%20FTA%2011%20sep.pdf (sourced on 20 March 2018).

Inhalt

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………4
II. Table summarizing the state of improvements in the labour-union themes…………………………………………6
III. Analysis of the state of improvement in the labour-union themes found in Resolution 2628 (2012-2017).
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..7
Illegal labour outsourcing……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..7
Labour Formalization Agreements………………………………………………………………………………………………..13
Institutional strengthening through more and more effective labour inspections……………………………….15
Anti-union violence and impunity…………………………………………………………………………………………………17
Protection for trade unionists………………………………………………………………………………………………………18
Promoting union rights and penalizing employers for denying workers their rights to freedom of
association and collective bargaining……………………………………………………………………………………………20
Legislative acts and political measures set in place to guarantee freedom of association and collective
bargaining, especially for informal workers……………………………………………………………………………………23
The creation of mechanisms to foment social dialogue with civil society…………………………………………..24
Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Colombia…………………………………………………………..24
The elimination of Child labour in Colombia…………………………………………………………………………………..26
Harmonising the national legal labour framework in line with ILO Conventions………………………………….27
IV. Conclusions and recommendations……………………………………………………………………………………………..28
V. Appendix – N°1…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..29

Impressum

Herausgegeben von:
Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika e. V. – FDCL
Gneisenaustraße 2a, D -10961 Berlin, Germany
Fon: +49 30 693 40 29 / Fax: +49 30 692 65 90
E-Mail: info@fdcl.org / Internet: www.fdcl.org
The Precarious state of labour rights in Colombia
Resolution 2628 of the European Parliament
Daniel Hawkins with Laura Valderrama
FDCL-Verlag Berlin, Mai 2018
ISBN: 978-3-923020-83-6

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