Member area

Colombia – one year after accession

07 May 2021

The TUAC stands in solidarity with the Colombian trade unions and the democratic forces of civil society in reaction to the recent violent crackdown by the Colombian authorities against the mass opposition and demonstrations against a planned tax reform. As reported by the ITUC, more than 1,089 cases of violence have been reported; including 726 arbitrary detentions, 28 deaths, 6 women raped by the ESMAD soldiers (the Colombian Anti-Riot Squad) , 234 people wounded, and 5 demonstrators disappeared.

For the OECD, the deplorable situation in Colombia has particular resonance.

Following a long, complicated and controversial accession process stretching back to 2013, Colombia officially became a member of the OECD in April 2020. Now a year into its OECD membership Colombia is reporting on the implementation of OECD legal instruments and recommendations.

Colombia´s accession process was marked by serious controversies regarding rule of law, labour and human rights. A year into to its OECD membership, Colombia remains one of the most dangerous countries for trade unionists and workers with serious concerns regarding the rule of law, and access to and efficiency of the judiciary. By joining the OECD, Colombia has committed itself to the fundamental values of the organisation. These include a functioning market economy, but also, and no less important, the rule of law, democracy with a well-functioning and independent judiciary, and full observance of human rights, including core labour standards.

In line with the reporting cycle stipulated in the Accession Agreement, Colombia will present its first annual progress report to the OECD Employment Labour and Social Affairs Committee on 12 May. Here, Colombia will report on actions in four aspects:

  • Labour informality and subcontracting;
  • Labour law enforcement;
  • Collective bargaining;
  • Crimes against trade unionists.

The Colombian authorities released its progress report already in February 2021. The report claims that overall the government is on track to meet its obligations. Including efforts to address informality, labour enforcement, and strengthening the use of collective agreements. The report  also notes “important progress in the fight against impunity”.

Since the accession of Colombia in April 2020, the Colombian trade union centers and the trade union movement as a whole have been monitoring the situation in Colombia and followed up on the Government’s international commitments in labour matters. In this follow-up, trade unions have not been able to confirm the overall positive tone reported by Colombian authorities. On the contrary. The trade union movement has found not only examples of non-compliance but even serious setbacks, including:

  • Worsening of labor informality, continuance of subcontracting and a de facto labour reform legalizing informality making employment even more precarious (False Social Protection Floor, through decree 1174 of 2020)
  • Persistent weakness in the application of labour law with reforms on paper followed by a decrease in practice of labour inspections
  • Continued obstacles in legislation and practice that hampers collective bargaining
  • Resurgence of anti-union violence, continued high impunity in the criminalization of anti-union crimes, and an increase in murders and threats against trade unionists.

The TUAC expresses its solidarity with the Colombian trade union movement and will continue to monitor the implementation of the agreed Post-Accession Monitoring Framework. The situation on labour rights and the safety of trade unionists should be central to it. The TUAC calls upon the OECD and the Colombian authorities to fully uphold the framework, both in substance and in process and involve social partners in the efforts via social dialogue.

In future accession processes, the OECD should give much greater priority to issues concerning the effective rule of law and the observance of human rights. This includes the introduction of criteria on workers’ rights in the pre-accession evaluation process, and providing the opportunity for information from trade unions, other civil society organisations from prospective countries and TUAC to be taken into account at an early stage.