This video says about itself:
Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country for trade unions
24 January 2012
In Colombia, 26 trade unionists have lost their lives in 2011 in the discharge of their duties, according to human rights organisations’ informations. This country is ranking first worldwide in violence against trade unionists. One of the most recent cases occured in Putumayo where a worker and his wife have been killed after participating in a debate on low salaries in presence of oil companies‘ members. The impunity makes the situation even worse.
From News Line daily in Britain:
Monday, 27 April 2015
‘Murdering trade unionists does not violate labour standards’
A MAJOR row has broken out in the US over statements made last week by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), who claimed that murdering trade unionists did not violate labour standards in trade agreements. The USTR also went on to say that that ‘perpetuating violence against a trade unionist doesn’t violate these agreements’.
This is what Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, testified at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on legislation to grant President Barack Obama fast track authority to drive through the TTIP deal between the US and the EU.
The legislation would also affect the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement between the US and twelve Pacific Rim countries.
Trumka said that the labour standards included in trade deals are poorly enforced, and that before he would back the White House’s push for the TTP or TTIP he wanted to see tougher labour provisions that could be enforced.
‘When you say, “Oh these are some standards, they’re better than no standards” we were told by the United States Trade Representative general counsel that murdering a trade unionist doesn’t violate these standards, that perpetuating violence against a trade unionist doesn’t violate these agreements.’
Trumka pointed specifically to the Colombia trade agreement that was signed in 2006, and passed by Congress in 2011. He said that even after the Obama administration crafted an agreement to tighten labour protections four years ago, some 105 trade unionists have been killed, and more than 1,300 have been threatened with death.
Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, disclosed that USTR officials said in at least two meetings – where she was present – that killing union members and officials would not be considered interfering with labour rights under the terms of the trade measures.
One instance involved talks last year about killings in Guatemala, where the AFL-CIO has been seeking redress for labour violations for six years. Another came just a few months ago in talks about a three-year-old case involving Honduras.
Lee said: ‘To substantiate our case we documented five or six murders of Guatemalan trade unionists that the government had failed to effectively investigate or prosecute.
‘The USTR told us that the murders of trade unionists or violence against trade unionists was not a violation of the labour chapter because it was a rule of law problem.’
She continued: ‘We certainly made the argument that if a worker is murdered in the course of trying to exercise a legal right to freedom of association or to organise and bargain collectively, then the government is failing to effectively enforce its laws, and the USTR disagreed with that interpretation.
‘If there is a climate of terror against trade unionists who effectively are prevented from exercising their rights under the law, then our government ought to take this at least as seriously as a failure to send a labour inspector to a factory.’
A spokesman for the USTR, Andrew Bates, didn’t deny Trumka’s interpretation, but he noted that in the cases of Honduras and Guatemala, the deals were signed by the Bush administration, as part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and included weaker provisions than those that the Obama administration extracted in finishing the Colombia pact.
Bates also noted that the US had been pressing Colombian authorities under the trade agreement to reduce attacks on union members and activists there.
Backtracking, Bates followed up the Trumka statement with a lengthier email statement saying: ‘It is absolutely not USTR’s position that free trade agreement labour chapters do not cover labour-related violence.
‘Addressing violence against union leaders and organisers and prosecuting perpetrators of union-related violence is a critical centerpiece of our efforts to advance fundamental worker rights.
‘In terms of the TPP, the working conditions and status of labour rights in many Asian countries are deplorable, and labour advocates have been subjected to harassment and violence there.
‘The United States can be significantly more effective in elevating workers’ rights in Asia and levelling the playing field for American workers if we engage with these countries.
‘That is why we’re seeking to build on the strong labour provisions in the most recent US trade agreements by seeking enforceable rules that uphold fundamental labour rights.
‘Those opposed to TPP would leave us in the position of doing nothing and effectively locking in the status quo – potentially making it even harder for us to fight for these rights in the future.’
AFL-CIO’s Lee said she was not satisfied with the response.
‘I concede that they care.
‘I concede that they are acting to address the labour violence.
‘The question is whether USTR considers murder to be a violation of the labour chapter. That is the question,’ she said.
‘The point is that USTR has informed us that labour-related violence does not constitute an actionable violation of the labour provisions in our FTAs. The quote from Bates skirts that question.’
Asked directly, Bates said yes, the labour chapter covers violence against union activists. But Lee remained unconvinced: ‘But does USTR consider labour-related violence to be an actionable breach of the labour chapter?
‘Before President Trumka gave his comments at the Guatemala press briefing, Tim Reif and Mike Froman reminded Trumka that violence is not part of the labour chapter.’
Britain: THE DODGY trade deal between the US and the EU would kill off campaigns to renationalise Royal Mail and BT, the Communication Workers’ Union heard yesterday. In a debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), delegates noted with concern that Labour’s opposition to the proposed deal had so far been confined to the impact on the NHS: here.
THE AFL-CIO US trade union federation stated yesterday that the Obama administration has made the deplorable decision to upgrade Malaysia – a major player in the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement – on its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. This clearly political decision undermines the credibility of important anti-trafficking efforts and underscores the fact that the Obama administration is perfectly willing to abandon workers to pursue its trade agenda. It is also yet another sign that the TPP will only continue a global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions: here.
SENATE DEMOCRATS BLOCK FAST TRACK FOR TRADE DEAL “Democrats, including several who favor Obama’s trade agenda, banded together to prevent the Senate from considering legislation that grants the president so-called Trade Promotion Authority, which would bar Congress from amending or filibustering trade agreements negotiated by the administration.” And Sen. Sherrod Brown called out President Obama for his treatment of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the debate. [Michael McAuliff, Laura Barron-Lopez, Zach Carter and Dana Liebelson, HuffPost]
ELIZABETH WARREN DETAILS ALL OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S BROKEN TRADE PROMISES There is no love lost in this trade feud. [Zach Carter, HuffPost]
ELIZABETH WARREN CALLS ON HILLARY TO WADE INTO TRADE DEBATE “As the fight over a massive international trade agreement heats up on Capitol Hill, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on Tuesday that she wants to see Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ‘weigh in on trade.’ In an interview with The Huffington Post, Warren declined to say whether she would endorse Clinton. ‘Right now I think it’s important for her to have a chance to lay out her views on a whole host of issues, including trade,’ she said.” [Dana Liebelson, HuffPost]
THE scourge of a privatising sweetheart deal between the EU and US threatens to choke Britain’s arts industry, actors warned yesterday. Equity delegates attending the acting union’s annual conference recognised “the huge danger and potential threat” that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) poses to Britain’s entertainment industries, cultural life and the entire trade union movement: here.
TPP Could ‘Undermine Health of Web’ Say 250+ Tech Companies and Digital Rights Groups: here.
THE ABSURD LEVEL OF TPP SECRECY “[A]lthough legislators are allowed to look at the text of the TPP in a secure room, they are only allowed to do so under restrictions that make it nearly impossible to understand what they are reading. First, they can’t bring expert staffers with them unless they have the right clearances, and the aides who have expertise in various relevant areas — for instance on the impacts on the environment or labor law — generally are not cleared. Second, lawmakers can’t record anything, or take any notes from the room.” Help support HuffPost journalism by signing up to get Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim’s newsletter here. [Michael McAuliff and Ryan Grim, HuffPost]
WHY THE TPP DEAL OKs SLAVERY IN MALAYSIA It all comes down to a key global trade “chokepoint.” [Akbar Ahmed, Laura Barron-Lopez and Ryan Grim]
EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal: here.
Australia walks away from Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal talks. The trade minister, Andrew Robb, says 98% of agreement is finalised but the difficulties lie with the big four economies of US Canada, Japan and Mexico: here.
In a significant blow to the Obama administration, four days of “make or break” ministerial-level talks in Hawaii on the US-dominated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) collapsed last weekend. No agreement was even reached on when to resume the negotiations: here.