Colombian Minister of Labor Luis Garzón was in Washington, D.C. the week of October 20 to highlight supposed advances made in meeting the requirements of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP), which mandated advances in protections for Colombian labor leaders. In a letter to the Minister Garzón, WOLA highlighted continued abuses occurring in the LAP’s priority sectors, concluding that despite some modest gains, violations remain widespread and unpunished. Bilateral talks under the LAP, which are set to expire this year, should continue and both governments must take steps to ensure that labor rights remain a priority in Colombia.
The need for more work was also highlighted by Congressman James P. McGovern, who said that he does “not believe the Labor Action Plan has been fulfilled. While the Ministry of Labor has made several institutional advances, the reality facing workers outside of Bogota remains difficult and often perilous.”
Of particular concern continues to be the safety and security of union leaders; 2013 saw an uptick in killings, with 26 trade unionists losing their lives for their work. Protests by the armed guards who accompany labor leaders are equally concerning, as it appears their own labor rights have been violated, and they are no longer able to protect labor and human rights defenders under threat.