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Cablegate: Ecuador: Ilo Engaged On Labor Reform

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: After letting a GOE request languish for
months, the ILO recently stepped up to offer to help the GOE
make progress on labor law reform. The ILO's regional
director recently visited Quito and offered to contract an
expert to help the GOE identify and address workers rights
gaps in Ecuador's labor laws. This would be the first step
in a process to move forward tripartite dialogue to achieve
labor code reform. Minister of Labor Raul Izurieta welcomed
to the idea, but has his own Ecuadorian and Colombian experts
in mind. We have made clear to the GOE our view that a
non-Ecuadorian expert would be most credible. Union leaders
are open to the idea of an ILO consultant. We continue to
urge all sides to launch a dialogue soonest. End Summary.

2. On March 2, PolChief, LabOff, and EconOff met with
Ricardo Hernandez Pulido, Regional Director of the ILO based
in Lima. Hernandez was in Ecuador to offer the GOE the ILO's
technical assistance to launch tripartite dialogue to achieve
labor reform. Hernandez said he gave Minister of Labor
Izurieta a draft analysis of Ecuador's compliance with ILO
conventions on March 1, including both legislative and
non-legislative suggestions to remedy areas of
non-compliance. Hernandez also spoke with Izurieta about the
possibility of hiring an international consultant, using ILO
staff, or hiring an Ecuadorian facilitator to help move labor
code reform forward. The international consultant Hernandez
recommended Alfredo Villavicencio, Peru's former
Vice-Minister of Labor.

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3. Hernandez said he had consulted with union leaders, who
were receptive to the idea of using Villavicencio as a
consultant. Union leaders also requested that the ILO also
contract an Ecuadorian legal consultant to help inform the
dialogue process. Hernandez also was concerned that the GOE
not distort ILO recommendations when implementing them, as he
believed happened with the subcontracting decree in 2004. We
offered Embassy support to prevent this from happening, and
have made clear to the GOE that to be credible, any resulting
reforms must be endorsed by the ILO.

4. On March 3, LabOff and EconOff met with Minister Izurieta
to discuss the ILO's proposal. Izurieta said he had two
Ecuadorian experts in mind to analyze Ecuador's labor laws.
LabOff and EconOff emphasized that it was important for the
ILO consultant to be from another country so he would be more
credible. Izurieta said he was not opposed to using
Villavicencio as a consultant. Izurieta said he would be
visiting Washington in the near future and hoped to meet with
U.S. Congress members to respond to their concerns about
Ecuador's labor situation.

5. Magne Svartbekk of the ILO told LabOff on March 8 that
Izurieta was now suggesting the ILO contract an (unspecified)
Colombian expert. Hernandez is currently in Colombia and
will be following up on this suggestion.


6. We are encouraged by the ILO's new engagement here and by
its pragmatic approach toward launching a tripartite labor
reform dialogue. Once burned, the ILO is understandably
skeptical about working with the GOE, but we can help smooth
relations and build confidence. We are emphasizing to all
sectors the need to quickly engage in dialogue to explore
avenues to strengthen worker rights protections here. We are
sanguine, however, about prospects for tripartite consensus
on labor reform. Relations are strained between this
government and both labor and business. Both have challenged
the authority of the current Labor Minister. Most recently,
business leaders reacted strongly against the Ministers March
8 unilateral increase to the minimum wage.

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