Advancing Labor Compliance in Colombia’s Port Sector

Project Duration
December 2020
December 2024
Funding and Year

The project aims to improve compliance with national laws related to internationally recognized labor rights in the port sector. These include, but are not limited to, the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, prohibition against discrimination at work, elimination of forced labor and child labor, and rights to acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

The Problem

Colombia’s port sector was identified for improved labor law enforcement in the Colombian Action Plan Related to Labor Rights and remains an important priority for bilateral engagement under the U.S. – Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement.  Despite Colombia’s adoption of new and revised laws, regulations, and other legal instruments to improve labor law enforcement and promote employers’ labor compliance through the establishment of direct employment relationships, significant labor challenges remain for workers in Colombia’s port sector.  While the use of worker cooperatives that do not truly represent workers has decreased in ports, other forms of abusive subcontracting have increased, often keeping workers in informality.  With many subcontractors and labor intermediaries operating unscrupulously or informally without adequate oversight, fundamental labor rights, enrollments in social security, and acceptable conditions of work have often been unmet.  Many subcontracted, short-term, dock-based positions in Buenaventura and in other ports are filled by Afro-Colombians, who historically have higher rates of labor informality and unemployment, and who face challenges with discrimination and political representation.  Labor-related conflict in Colombia’s ports is high, sometimes resulting in work stoppages and strikes that affect key sectors of the Colombian economy and livelihoods across the country as well as U.S. companies operating in Colombia.

Our Strategy

The project’s strategy in Colombia’s port sector is to analyze barriers to compliance with national laws related to internationally recognized labor rights; increase understanding of these barriers to compliance; and develop effective approaches and increase awareness and adoption of such approaches to support compliance with these national laws.  After a needs assessment is completed, the project will pilot the approaches in Colombia’s largest port of Buenaventura and at least one other port identified through the assessment.  The project will give special attention to the labor rights of Afro-Colombian port workers.

Partners of the Americas
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4900 / Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA)