Progress in Implementing Chapter 16 (Labor) and Capacity-Building under the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement
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[Excerpt] The report examines public submissions reviewed by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) under Article 16.4.3 of the CAFTA-DR or engagement related to previously-reviewed submissions during 2011-2014 concerning the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras. In undertaking these reviews, DOL conducted comprehensive reviews of the materials submitted, engaged with government, labor, and business stakeholders, and issued findings and recommendations to the governments aimed at addressing the identified concerns. As a result of those reviews, the United States filed the first-ever dispute settlement case on labor rights under a trade agreement against Guatemala, engaged with the Government of the Dominican Republic, and reported biannually on progress made on DOL recommendations in its Report of Review. DOL was nearing completion of its report of review of a submission received on Honduras, and had already begun to engage the Government of Honduras to discuss issues identified in the review to pave the way for the negotiation of a comprehensive monitoring and action plan to improve labor law enforcement with Honduras once the report is published. The report also examines the progress of the countries in implementing the recommendations provided in the White Paper, as well as addressing other important labor rights concerns and commitments, including adoption of laws and regulations to enhance the effectiveness of labor ministry and judicial sector mechanisms, establishment of capacity building programs in collaboration with international organizations, and implementation of public outreach and awareness initiatives aimed at workers and employers. Key findings on progress include positive legal reforms to streamline labor law enforcement and appoint specialized labor judges in Nicaragua and to address discrimination against and dismissal of pregnant workers in Costa Rica, and efforts to draft legislation that would strengthen labor inspections in Honduras and specifically address trafficking in persons in Nicaragua. Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Guatemala saw increases in budgets to their ministries of labor, and Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua saw increases in the number of labor inspectorates. El Salvador nearly tripled the amount of fines imposed for labor law violations and nearly quadrupled the amount of fines collected, though they still only collected about half of fines imposed. Honduras increased funding and number of judges addressing labor issues, and other countries sought to address labor court delays through oral hearings and improved case management systems. Most governments made efforts, often with United States Government (USG) technical assistance, to include stakeholders in efforts to promote a culture of compliance, though these efforts were strongest in mobilizing a holistic approach to eradicating child labor. Further efforts to address child labor included social programs to address family livelihoods, like conditional cash transfers, and community-based approaches to identifying and addressing child labor.