US embassy cable - 03GUATEMALA379

GSP WORKER RIGHTS: EMBASSY SUPPORTS CONSULTATIONS OVER REVIEW

Identifier: 03GUATEMALA379
Wikileaks: View 03GUATEMALA379 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Guatemala
Created: 2003-02-11 20:43:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: ELAB ETRD PHUM GT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUATEMALA 000379 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN AND WHA/PPC 
USTR FOR JON ROSENBAUM AND BUD CLATANOFF 
USDOL FOR ILAB: JORGE PEREZ-LOPEZ 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB, ETRD, PHUM, GT 
SUBJECT: GSP WORKER RIGHTS: EMBASSY SUPPORTS CONSULTATIONS 
OVER REVIEW 
 
REF: STATE 35553 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary:  Embassy believes that bilateral 
consultations would be as productive as a formal GSP review 
of Guatemalan worker rights.  Although the labor rights 
situation is bad, it is not worsening and the GOG has in fact 
taken steps to protect labor rights since the last review was 
suspended.  Furthermore, the political effects of a formal 
review are uncertain.  The GOG is in an election year and is 
reeling from recent USG narcotics de-certification.  Adding 
the threat of withdrawal of GSP benefits could provoke a 
backlash against USG "blacklisting."  We suggest the 
Department support an alternative strategy of bilateral 
consultations to promote labor rights improvements.  We have 
already begun this process by signaling key GOG interlocutors 
privately, and have built it into our Mission Program Plan. 
We welcome USTR participation in these consultations in the 
broader context of CAFTA negotiations.  If decision is made 
to conduct a formal review, however, we will of course work 
to make it a sucesss.  End Summary. 
 
The GOG has "Taken Steps" 
------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) The AFL-CIO and International Labor Rights Fund 
petitions on Guatemala correctly identify major weaknesses in 
the protection of labor rights in Guatemala.  Labor rights 
violations continue to be common and serious here, and must 
change for Guatemala to be a full partner under CAFTA.  Most 
worrisome to us is the situation of impunity for those who 
attack labor leaders, the ineffective labor justice system, 
and particularly egregious cases of non-reinstatement of 
illegally fired workers.  The petitions do not, however, take 
into account positive steps to protect worker rights taken by 
the GOG since the last USTR review ended in May 2001.  These 
include: 
 
-- creation of a Special Prosecutor's Office to Investigate 
Attacks on Union Members in 2001; 
 
-- creation of a consensual National Plan for Occupational 
Health and Safety in 2002; 
 
-- cooperation with the ILO's International Program to 
Eliminate Child Labor in several sectors of the economy; 
 
-- revitalization of the Labor Ministry under ex-minister 
Godoy; 
 
-- increased inspections, with the result that the first year 
of implementation of the Ministry's newly authorized fines 
totals more than the labor courts have imposed in 50 years; 
 
-- resolution of the high-profile DYMEL dispute. 
 
Movement on Issues Mentioned in Petitions 
----------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (SBU) In addition, several problems in the petitions have 
been resolved or require clarification.  For example: 
 
In the AFL-CIO petition; 
 
-- The Jalapa Coca Cola's local bottler recently agreed to a 
collective bargaining agreement with its union; 
 
-- Jalapa municipal workers struck in 2002, but returned to 
work after concessions from the mayor; 
 
-- Labor relations at the Choi Shin-Cimatextiles maquila have 
normalized since management instituted regular meetings with 
its unions, which have failed to organize 25% of the workers; 
 
-- With GOG support, ILO/IPEC has launched a new project to 
combat child labor in the Guatemala City municipal dump; 
 
In the ILRF petition; 
 
-- The petition incorrectly asserts that the Labor Ministry 
has failed to use its new power to levy fines; 
 
-- The SITRABI case in Morales, Izabal is resolved.  Further 
attacks have occurred in the area over illegal land 
occupations, not labor rights; 
 
-- The existence of "solidarity associations" does not 
violate the right to association; 
 
-- Public sector doctors, health workers and banana workers 
held unofficial work stoppages in 2002, without GOG 
intervention; and 
 
-- discrimination is not grounds for GSP review. 
 
An Alternative Path To Achieve Review Goals 
------------------------------------------- 
 
4.  (SBU) We believe that aggressive bilateral consultations 
with the Labor Minister, Foreign Minister, Attorney General 
and Judicial Branch could achieve the same ends as a USTR 
review.  These consultations, which we have already 
initiated, will focus on achieving progress in labor justice, 
investigation of unresolved crimes against union leaders, and 
reinstallation of illegally fired workers.  New 
opportunities, including the new Labor Minister Victor 
Moreira's legislative priorities (e.g. to combat gender 
discrimination) could also be incorporated in our 
consultation efforts.  As an Embassy, we are committed to 
make this strategy work and will highlight it strategy in our 
Mission Program Plan, which is about to be submitted. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
5.  (SBU) In sum, we think we can best advance labor rights 
through bilateral consultations.  If, however, Washington 
agencies conclude otherwise, count on our full support. 
Hamilton 

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