U.S. National Administrative Office
Table of Contents
North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation
National Administrative Office
Appendix 1 - NAALC Process
Appendix 2 - NAO Submissions Timeline
NORTH AMERICAN AGREEMENT ON LABOR COOPERATION
The Agreement creates both international and domestic institutions. The international institution is the Commission for Labor Cooperation, consisting of a Council supported by a Secretariat. The domestic institutions are the National Administrative Offices (NAOs), located in each of the countries, and national or governmental advisory committees.
The Council, which is composed of the three Cabinet-level labor officials, is the governing body of the Commission.
An independent Secretariat, which is headed by an Executive Director appointed by consensus of the three Parties for a fixed term, provides technical support to the Council.
National Administrative Offices were created by each country to implement the Agreement and to serve as points of contact between Commission entities and national governments.
The Agreement also allows for each country to establish national and governmental advisory committees to their NAOs.
Labor law is defined broadly in the Agreement, to include laws and regulations, or provisions thereof, directly related to:
The Agreement obligates each Party to:
A goal of the Agreement is to resolve issues in a cooperative manner; thus, it provides numerous opportunities for formal and informal cooperative consultations. The Agreement provides a mechanism for initial consultations to take place between the NAOs of the three Parties. Additionally, any matter within the scope of the Agreement may also be subject to consultations at the ministerial level.
Oversight of Labor Law Enforcement
At the request of any Party, an Evaluation Committee of Experts (ECEs), composed of independent experts, may be convened if a matter has not been resolved after ministerial consultations.
Following consideration by the Council of an ECE report and consultations among the Parties, if a Party believes that another Party is demonstrating a persistent pattern of failure to effectively enforce its occupational safety and health, child labor or minimum wage technical standards, an arbitral panel may be established.
NATIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE
The NAALC calls for the establishment of a National Administrative Office (NAO) in each of the three NAFTA Parties. Each country opened its NAO on January 1, 1994. The function of the NAOs is to serve as points of contact with governmental agencies within a Party, other NAOs and the Secretariat. NAOs are required to provide information regarding the NAALC and labor law matters in the three countries to the Secretariat, other NAOs or ECEs, and the public at large.
The work of the NAO is divided into three basic areas:
The North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) requires that the NAOs provide for the receipt and review of submissions on labor law matters in the other two countries. The NAALC further delineates the types of issues that may be considered at the various resolution stages of the Agreement. The framers of the Agreement intended that disputes be addressed and settled through dialogue and cooperative consultations, initially at the NAO level and later at the ministerial level. At the NAO and ministerial level, there is a broad range of issues that may be considered for review. The jurisdictional authority is narrowed with respect to the subject matter that may be raised at subsequent levels of review, namely before ECE panels and in Arbitral panels.
The U.S. NAO, in consultation with other government agencies and the public at large, promulgated procedural guidelines for the review of submissions. Those guidelines require, among other things:
(Appendix 2 is a diagram of the submissions process).
Any person may file a submission with the U.S. NAO regarding labor law matters arising in the territory of another Party. The procedural guidelines require verification of minimum standards in order to begin the review process. The submission shall address and explain, to the fullest extent possible, whether:
If the submission does not meet these minimum standards, notice may be given to the submitter that the submission is defective and the submitter may be given an opportunity to cure the defect.
In general, the Secretary shall accept a submission for review if it raises issues relevant to labor law matters in the territory of another Party and if a review would further the objectives of the Agreement.
The NAO also considers other factors in deciding whether to accept or deny a submission. The NAO may decline to accept all or part of a submission if:
The holding of a public hearing is presumed by the guidelines, unless the NAO deems that a hearing is not a suitable method to gather information. It is important to note that:
After the NAO has gathered all the necessary information, including information received as a result of consultations with the other NAOs, the submitter, companies, private consultants and testimony received at the hearing, it will issue a public report. The focus of the inquiry for purposes of the public report is to determine whether the information presented substantiates allegations that the Party in question is failing to enforce its own labor laws.
Under the NAALC, the preferred approach in reaching its objectives is through cooperation--exchanges of information, technical assistance, and consultations. The Agreement recognizes this approach by its title and addresses it throughout the document. Thus, much of the tripartite activity focuses on cooperative activities on labor issues, principally developed and coordinated by the respective NAOs.
Article 11 of the NAALC calls for the ministerial council to promote cooperative activities between the Parties, as appropriate, regarding:
The Parties have focused cooperative activities on labor issues that were viewed as meriting particular concern by all three countries and on those issues raised in the submissions filed with the NAOs. The intended goals of the activities are to provide specific technical training and expertise, to create mediums for exchange of best practices and information that will facilitate better understanding of each country's labor laws, policies and practices, and to promote awareness of current labor issues in the three countries.
Following are examples of cooperative activities programs undertaken by the countries.
Attendees at these events come from government, business, organized labor, academic and non-government organizations.
Information Available to the Public - Reading Room
The official notice which established the U.S. NAO, published in the Federal Register on April 7, 1994, requires the following:
In addition, the Library of the Reading Room has various reports and resource materials pertaining to activities in which the three signatories to the NAALC are involved. These materials include: labor law documents from the United States, Canada and Mexico; proceedings of the various cooperative activities described above; studies and reports published by the Labor Secretariat; non-confidential documents relating to submissions, including public reports; and various other materials related to Mexico, Canada, the NAFTA and labor law.
Copies of public information can be obtained by contacting the Office of Trade Agreement Implementation at TAATC@dol.gov or by telephone at (202) 693-4900.
To receive copies of any of these materials via mail, please call the NAO at (202) 693-4900 or write to:
U.S. National Administrative Office
Once a submission is filed with NAO (full scope), the NAO has consultations with other NAO's (full scope). Then, the NAO issues its Public Report. Unresolved matters go forward to Minister to Minister Consultations (full scope). After such consultations, unresolved, trade related, mutually recognized matters (health and safety, technical labor standards) may go before an Evaluation Committee of Experts (ECE), who will issue a report to the Ministerial Council, and further Minister to Minister Consultations may result. If the matter still is unresolved, a Ministerial Council Special Session may occur. If not resolved, the matter (health and safety, child labor, minimum wage) may progress to dispute resolution. If still not resolved, sanctions may occur.
During this process, the role of the Secretariat is to write publications/reports and to provide staff/technical assistance to the Ministerial Council.
NAO Submissions Timeline
Once a submission is received by the NAO, the NAO Secretary has 60 days to accept or to decline a submission for review. If accepted, the NAO has 120 days with a possible extension of 60 days to issue the report. During the review process, the NAO may consult with other NAO's, may consult with NAO Interagency Group, and may hold a hearing.