Improving Labor Law Enforcement in Guatemala

Project Duration
October 2018
June 2024
Funding and Year

Promoting acceptable working conditions in trade partner countries helps the U.S. create a fair playing field for its own workforce and for U.S. companies that play by the rules. This project seeks to ensure that workers in the agricultural export sector in Guatemala, with whom the U.S. has a free trade agreement, receive at least the minimum wage, work within legal hours of work limits, receive due compensation for overtime, and operate in a safe working environment. A particular focus is on improving the capacity of the labor inspectorate and judiciary to become more efficient and effective in investigating violations regarding acceptable conditions of work in the agricultural export sector.

The Problem

The agricultural export sector (also known as the Agro-Export sector) in Guatemala has been growing rapidly and is one of the main sources of recent employment growth in Guatemala.  The sector saw employment growth of 3.2% in 2016 and 3.7% growth in the overall agricultural GDP in 2017.  

Labor law statutes in Guatemala’s Agro-Export sector are not fully enforced, especially ones that relate to acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.

Most violations in the Agro-Export sector can be linked to poor labor law compliance from producers and lack of enforcement by the labor inspectorate.  The Guatemalan Ministry of Labor (MOL) lacks capacity to enforce labor legislation as an increasing number of workers join the Agro-Export sector.  This has made building the capacity of the MOL and the Judiciary all-the-more critical for Guatemala to meet its labor-related commitments under the United States-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).  

Our Strategy

This project works to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of labor inspections – with an emphasis on violations of acceptable conditions of work – and helps the labor inspectorate become more knowledgeable of court needs and procedures when filing cases with the judiciary, increasing the likelihood that judges will uphold appropriate administrative sanction resolutions for these violations.

By revising the existing Electronic Case Management System (ECMS), the MOL increases its ability to target and strategically plan future investigations using real-time data on labor inspections, sanctions assessed, fines collected and violation recidivism rates.  The improvements made to the ECMS also allow inspectors and supervisors to track the resolution of cases, including cases referred to the labor courts.  

Other activities planned to meet these objectives include:

  • developing curricula and training manuals for supervisors and labor inspectors on performance;
  • professionalizing the labor inspectorate, increasing the knowledge and awareness of violations;
  • training inspectors on investigation skills; and
  • developing a social compliance system by educating workers, employers and government officials of the MOL and Judiciary

To unify jurisprudence criteria, the project engages local judges, magistrates from the Labor and Social Security Appeals Courts, and magistrates from the Supreme Court to participate in technical workshops and training seminars in an effort to increase knowledge of case preparation and court needs when cases are referred to the courts for judicial review. 

By building institutional capacities of the MOL and the Judiciary in a coordinated effort, the project seeks to address key drivers of acceptable conditions of work violations as well as to increase effectiveness and efficiency in the application and investigation of labor laws and procedures within the inspectorate and the judiciary.

International Labor Organization (ILO)
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4900 / Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA)
Acceptable Conditions of Work
Electronic Case Management System (ECMS)
FY18 Projects
Northern Central America