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Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 30, 2008

CAFTA-DR Labor Projects

The Bush Administration committed more than $60 million ($20 million each year in 2005, 2006, and 2007) for labor capacity building in Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) countries. Areas of focus were identified through a cooperative process with partner countries and reflect on-going needs identified in the April 2005 “White Paper” of the Working Group of the Vice Ministers Responsible for Trade and Labor in the Countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic.

The multi-year assistance is designed to build the capacity of the ministries of labor to more effectively enforce labor laws. Activities are underway to train labor inspectors, develop new public awareness materials, assess the information technology needs of the ministries of labor, and provide technical assistance to the labor justice system.

2007 Programs

Strengthen Ministries of Labor – $5 million

Ensure Benefits in the Formal Sector$1 million (El Salvador) This Department of Labor project will further develop systems, raise awareness, and promote a transparent process for employer payment into the social security system, allowing workers to verify that deductions from their salaries have been transferred to the correct agency, and ensuring that workers receive appropriate health care benefits.

Maximize Resources Through Strategic Planning – $4 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This Department of Labor project will help ministries of labor to maximize their resources by targeting their inspections more strategically. This will build on the “Comply and Win” project, providing additional technical assistance to help ministries of labor carry out inspections more effectively in areas identified during the planning process. The project will also conduct a diagnostic study of needs in selected CAFTA-DR countries to produce more reliable and timely labor market information.

Modernize Labor Justice – $2.8 million

Train Public Defenders and Legal Assistance Providers – $1 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This USAID project will train government public defenders to provide disadvantaged workers access to the judicial system. It will also examine legal/regulatory barriers to alternative dispute resolution. Especially outside capital cities, government support staff will be trained in developing procedure manuals, case management, personnel issues, oversight mechanisms, record-keeping, statistics and indicators for planning, follow-up, and evaluation.

Promote Civil Society Engagement with the Judiciary – $1 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) USAID will award grants to civil society organizations to strengthen their ability to support sound legal and policy analysis, surveys, and focus groups. NGO staff will be trained to review case statistics and judgments, track institutional reforms in the labor justice system, collect and channel complaints, and publicize results.

Promote Interest-Based Bargaining Techniques – $0.5 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This USAID project will teach union and management representatives to manage conflict. Through interactive training and role-playing, participants will improve their ability to conduct collective bargaining negotiations. There will also be a “train-the-trainers” component, in which facilitators will train staff of ministries of labor, business school professors, independent mediators, and other trainers.

Modernize the Labor Justice System – $0.3 million (Costa Rica) Costa Rica was not eligible for 2005 funds when this project was launched in the other CAFTA-DR countries and its exclusion has created a capacity gap. To address this gap, this USAID program will (a) train judges, lawyers, and clerks on national labor laws and the application of fundamental international labor standards, (b) develop a web-based database of jurisprudence of precedents for labor cases, (c) enhance existing or install new electronic case management systems, (d) train judges in implementing new laws establishing oral proceedings, and (e) provide labor courts with computers, software, and other equipment.

Eliminate Gender and Other Types of Discrimination – $2.5 million

Reduce Gender and Other Forms of Discrimination $1 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This USAID project will provide training and other support to civil society organizations that provide services to women and other disadvantaged groups (counseling, accessibility, translation for indigenous languages, etc.) The implementer will conduct an audit of court processes that affect women, disabled persons, indigenous groups, and other disadvantaged populations, and provide technical assistance to the court as well as sensitization training for judges and public defenders.

Protect Workers in the Sugar Cane Sector$1 million (Dominican Republic) Sugar cane workers suffer from poor working conditions such as wage and hour violations, poor occupational safety and health, and deferred payment for their services. The Dominican Secretary of Labor launched a model program to improve labor rights of workers in the sugar sector in el Ceibo. This Department of Labor project would seek to expand the Dominican Secretary of Labor’s initiative to additional communities. It would also work with unions and local community organizations to improve mechanisms for workers to protect their rights.

Provide Job Training for People with Disabilities – $0.5 million (Costa Rica) The Government of Costa Rica recently passed significant legislation to encourage hiring people with disabilities. This Department of Labor project is intended to reduce the barriers to employment for people with disabilities by training them in information technology (using adaptive technology) and other skills, educating employers, and facilitating job placement. The program is based on a successful Department of Labor project in El Salvador which placed 158 persons with disabilities into full-time employment and provided skills to 26 others who, in turn, began their own small businesses.

Establish Benchmarks and Verification – $3 million

Semi-Annual Assessment of Progress – $3 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) Through this project, the International Labour Organization will work with ministries of labor, employers’ organizations and trade unions, individual project implementing organizations, and where possible, the Inter-American Development Bank and other donors to establish initial benchmarks and subsequent assessments for each of the beneficiary countries. These assessments will also serve as input into the biennial reporting requirements of the Jefferson Amendment to CAFTA-DR.

Promote a Culture of Compliance with Labor Laws $7 million

Support Alliances to Improve Labor and Environmental Standards – $2 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This USAID program will help to strengthen and streamline the work of existing alliances/certifying organizations that serve U.S. buyers, to promote best practices in labor standards and environmental protection and increase the competitiveness of participating local firms. It also aims to attract multinational and local businesses to private/voluntary process and certification regimes across several business sectors and encourage partnerships between governments and the private sector.

Reach out to the Agriculture Sector in Guatemala – $1 million (Guatemala) This Department of Labor project, based on a similar project implemented last year in Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, will provide information and training on labor rights and national labor laws to workers and employers in rural communities, with specific attention to indigenous populations. The project will also increase the ability of workers to enforce labor laws through linkages to the Guatemalan Ministry of Labor’s enforcement procedures.

Engage Workers in the Informal Economy – $1 million. This pilot State Department project will improve data collection of the scale and scope of the informal sector. It will then develop policies, strategies, and national capacity to improve tripartite social partner engagement—including national tripartite bodies—with informal workers to incorporate them into the formal economy. It will work to reduce regulatory and administrative barriers to formalization for workers, small, and medium enterprises. Expected outcomes include a reduction in the size of the informal economy and an increase in worker rights coverage for workers who, by formalizing, benefit from labor law protections, improved working conditions, and greater employment security through labor contracts.

Promote Tripartite Social Dialogue – $3 million (all CAFTA-DR countries) This State Department project will develop a culture of compliance by bolstering tripartite social dialogue through training. Topics will include dispute resolution and reconciling the pressures for productivity and competitiveness with sustainable development and improved working conditions. By developing tripartite social dialogue, the project will also increase adherence to and respect for labor law, increase understanding and respect for labor institutions, promote a culture of compliance and dialogue, and promote consensus building on a broad range of issues of mutual interest among government, worker, and employer tripartite social partners.


Released on January 30, 2008

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