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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

ILAB News Release: [09/27/2013]
Contact Name: Gloria Della or Egan Reich
Phone Number: (202) 693-4679 or x4960
Email:
Della.Gloria.D@dol.gov or Reich.Egan@dol.gov
Release Number: 13-1979-NAT

US Labor Department issues report on labor concerns in Dominican sugar sector, announces $10 million project in agriculture

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez today released a report regarding labor concerns in the Dominican sugar sector in response to a public submission filed under the Labor Chapter of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). The department also announced a $10 million project to reduce child labor and to improve labor rights and working conditions in the Dominican agriculture sector.

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated, "Today we are releasing a report that highlights labor concerns in the Dominican sugar sector and shortcomings in the Dominican government's ability to identify and address them. The report recommends a way forward and notes that we stand ready to help. Working together with the Dominican government, we look forward to making a real difference in these workers' lives."

The report is a response to a submission by Father Christopher Hartley, which alleged that the government of the Dominican Republic failed "to enforce labor laws, as required under Chapter 16 of the CAFTA-DR, as these relate to the Dominican sugar industry."

The department conducted a detailed review of all information obtained from the government of the Dominican Republic, the submitter, workers, industry and other stakeholders. The report finds evidence of apparent and potential violations of labor law in the Dominican sugar sector, concerning: (1) acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health, such as payments below the minimum wage, 12-hour work days, seven-day work weeks, lack of potable water, and the absence of safety equipment; (2) a minimum age for the employment of children and the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor; and (3) a prohibition on the use of any form of forced or compulsory labor.

The report also discusses the department's concerns with respect to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Additionally, it highlights significant procedural and methodological shortcomings in the labor inspection process that undermine the government's capacity to identify labor violations. The report offers 11 recommendations to the government of the Dominican Republic to address the report's findings and improve enforcement of Dominican labor laws in the sugar sector. The Department of Labor will review the status of implementation of the recommendations six months and then 12 months after publication.

The Department of Labor is committed to engaging with the government of the Dominican Republic to address the concerns identified in the report and to assisting the government with implementing the report's recommendations. This commitment is evidenced by the $10 million, four-year project that the Department of Labor announced today to reduce child labor and improve labor rights and working conditions in the Dominican agriculture sector. This project builds on many years of Department of Labor's technical assistance to the Dominican Republic, including $16 million in funding since 1998 to eliminate child labor.

Read the report in English at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/otla/20130926DR.pdf and in Spanish at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/programs/otla/20130926DR_esp.pdf, and find out more information about the project at http://www.dol.gov/ilab/projects/americas/2013DR-agriculture.pdf.

The Bureau of International Labor Affairs leads the Department of Labor's efforts to ensure that workers around the world are treated fairly and are able to share in the benefits of the global economy. ILAB's global mission is to improve working conditions, raise living standards, protect workers' ability to exercise their rights and address the workplace exploitation of children and other vulnerable populations.