Three Years of Non-Compliance with the Obama-Santos Labor Action Plan

Joint statement by
Richard Louis Trumka, President AFL-CIO,
Luis Alejandro Pedraza, Presidente CUT
Luis Miguel Morantes, Presidente CTC

Three years ago, on April 7, 2011, the governments of Colombia and the United States signed an agreement known as the “Labor Action Plan” (LAP) aimed at addressing egregious worker rights violations and overcoming the obstacles for ratifying the free trade agreement by the U.S. Congress.

The LAP proposed positive albeit incomplete measures to improve protection and respect for labor rights. However, from the outset this side agreement lacked the enforcement mechanisms needed to ensure that all of its commitments were fully implemented not only before the trade agreement entered into force but also on a continuing basis. As a result, after the FTA went into force the Colombian government no longer felt pressure to promote sustained and meaningful protection of labor and union rights that Colombian workers have lacked for so long.

The Colombian government seems to have understood the LAP as an agreement without the legal and political tools that would obligate its effective and complete implementation. The Colombian government seems to have viewed the LAP as principally a way to gain approval of the FTA by the United States Congress. The incipient process of reforms of the LAP was not sustained after the FTA was implemented.

Three years after the signing of the LAP and almost two years after the FTA came into force, the macroeconomic damage to Colombia has been profound. In the first full year of the FTA, Colombian exports to the US have fallen by over 15% while imports from the United States grew by nearly the same amount according to official Colombian data. At the same time, the rights of Colombian workers continue to be denied by many employers and ignored by the Colombian state; the LAP did not help contribute to sustainable development or shared prosperity.