Kirk asks trade panel to investigate Guatemala labor rights

Bloomberg | May 17, 2011

Kirk asks trade panel to investigate Guatemala labor rights

By Eric Martin

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk asked an international commission to investigate Guatemala’s alleged failure to enforce worker protections, the first labor case brought by the U.S. against a trade-accord partner.

“We expect to see the government of Guatemala take concrete actions to improve its labor-law enforcement to protect the rights of workers,” Kirk said today in an e-mailed statement. “While Guatemala has taken some positive steps over the past several months, its actions and proposals have been insufficient to address what we view as systemic failures.”

The U.S. requested consultations on the labor-law actions in July, and the request for a meeting of the Free Trade Commission, established by the pact with Central American nations and the Dominican Republic, is the next step in the dispute-settlement process, Kirk said.

The U.S. AFL-CIO labor federation and six Guatemalan unions asked the U.S. in April 2008 to protest what they said was the Guatemalan government’s failure to enforce its own labor law. The AFL-CIO said at the time of its complaint there had been at least eight murders and one attempted killing related to union activity since the implementation of the pact.

In July, the U.S. said it found that the Ministry of Labor failed to investigate alleged violations and courts didn’t enforce orders in cases involving labor-law violations.

The deaths of 29 people on a dairy ranch yesterday in northern Guatemala, one of the worst massacres in the nation’s history, were linked today to the Mexican drug cartel the Zetas, the Associated Press reported, citing Interior Minister Carlos Menocal.

source: Bloomberg