September 27, 2012

AFL-CIO Applauds the Acceptance of GSP Cases Concerning Iraq an

Celeste Drake

The AFL-CIO applauds the acceptance of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) cases concerning Iraq and Fiji.  We believe that putting the labor laws and labor enforcement record under review in both countries will help workers in their efforts to exercise their fundamental rights—including the right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions. 
GSP is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of 128 designated beneficiary countries and territories. To keep the benefits, countries have to meet certain requirements, which include efforts to ensure that workers can exercise fundamental labor rights.  In an effort to improve international workers' rights, the AFL-CIO works with our brothers and sisters around the world to file complaints against governments that do not live up to their end of the bargain.  
Sri Lanka is a GSP country that has been under review for its labor rights situation for several years.  The AFL-CIO is concerned about the announcement that the Sri Lanka review will be closed.  The government of Sri Lanka has made progress during the period the GSP review has been open, but we believe much more effort is needed to improve the ability of workers to exercise their fundamental rights.  The reforms to date, including increased fines for unfair labor practices and union access to the Export Processing Zones through new facilitation centers, will require continued monitoring to ensure proper implementation and enforcement.  The AFL-CIO notes that the governments of the United States and Sri Lanka have agreed to continue to work together on labor concerns under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and encourages the United States to vigorously scrutinize the implementation of these reforms in that body. 
We will be monitoring the progress of the newly established Labor Affairs Committee of the TIFA and will be hearing from our brothers and sisters in the Sri Lankan labor movement to report on the government’s progress—or lack thereof.   We stand in solidarity with the workers of Sri Lanka in their efforts to support themselves and their families with decent jobs and justice in the workplace and are ready to refile a GSP case if the government of Sri Lanka fails to live up to its commitments.

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