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Cablegate: Goc Moves to Expedite Congressional Approval Of

VZCZCXYZ0030
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #8662 3611332
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271332Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0642
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7961
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 9709
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ DEC 9153
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 5746
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA PRIORITY 1013
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 6450
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL PRIORITY 4241
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS BOGOTA 008662

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB KJUS PGOV PHUM PTER CO
SUBJECT: GOC MOVES TO EXPEDITE CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL OF
LABOR LEGISLATION ADDRESSING ILO CONCERNS

REF: BOGOTA 4860

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SUMMARY
-------

1. In response to concerns identified by the International
Labor Organization (ILO), the GOC has introduced bills in
Congress that would bring Colombia's laws closer to ILO
standards. The proposed legislation would: transfer
authority for declaring whether a strike is legal from the
executive to independent labor judges; make binding
arbitration an option rather than a mandatory process after a
strike has lasted 60 days; require workers' cooperatives to
pay into the social security system and benefits programs;
and levy heftier fines for cooperatives that do not comply
with current laws. The GOC has made the bills' passage a top
priority in the special legislative session, which it has
called for February 1. End Summary

--------------------------------------------- ------
INDEPENDENT JUDGES TO DECIDE ON LEGALITY OF STRIKES
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. The GOC introduced a bill on November 22 that would
transfer authority for declaring whether a strike is legal
from the Ministry of Social Protection (MSP) to independent
labor judges. The bill also proposes employing mediation
through a tripartite sub commission of the Commission on Wage
and Labor Policies once a strike or work stoppage exceeded 60
days. The sub commission would be composed of one
representative each from the government, the union, and
management. If the parties cannot reach agreement after five
days of mediation, the bill provides that either of the
parties to the dispute may request that the case be submitted
to a binding arbitration tribunal. This would revise current
law, which has been criticized by the ILO because it imposes
binding arbitration in any labor disputein which a strike or
work stoppage has exceeded 60 days, regardless of whether the
parties have requested it.

--------------------------------------------- -----
TOUGHER ENFORCEMENT ON LAWS GOVERNING COOPERATIVES
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. A second GOC bill addresses workers' cooperatives
(reftel). The bill would require workers' cooperatives to
pay into the same welfare and benefits programs that
traditional employers contribute to for each employee,
including the National Learning Institute (SENA) and the
Colombian Family Welfare program (ICBF). The bill also
proposes stricter inspections and heftier fines for employers
and contractors who unlawfully use the workers' cooperatives
model to avoid paying workers required wages and benefits.
The Third Commission of the House of Representatives passed
the bill through the first round of debates on December 11.
The House will debate the bill once more, and then pass it to
the Senate for two debates, before it can become law.

--------------------------------------
LAWS LIKELY TO BE ENACTED BY JUNE 2008
--------------------------------------

4. Secretary of the Presidency Bernardo Moreno told us the
GOC has made passage of the labor legislation a top priority
for the beginning of 2008. The GOC has placed it on the
agenda of the special congressional session called for
February 1. Congress would not normally return to session
until March 16. Labor Vice Minister Andres Palacio said he
expects Congress to approve the workers cooperative bill by
the end of April 2008 and the arbitration bill by the end of
June. He said the GOC is still studying the ILO's
recommendation to further limit which economic sectors are
considered "essential public services," whose workers are not
permitted to strike. Moreno noted that the GOC is also moving
to strengthen the labor inspection unit, including boosting
the number of inspectors, and will discuss with Peruvian
officials on January 9 the labor legislation enacted by Peru
prior to approval of the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement.
Nichols

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