MEXICO CITY – Guatemala has met a US Trade Representative’s 18-point labor enforcement plan linked to a bitter rights abuse case and hopes to avoid a proposed $15 million fine as it nears completion.

“All the plan’s main points have been met and we hope we won’t be fined,” the Labor Ministry’s international affairs director Luis Schwank told WWD.

An arbitration hearing is scheduled for June 27 at which time the USTR and Guatemala will discuss if the plan signed April 2013 was fulfilled.

The case stems from a 2008 AFL-CIO complaint that Guatemala was failing to enforce CAFTA-DR laws allowing textile and apparel workers to unionize. When demanding these rights, many were intimated and some even murdered. Meanwhile, the Labor Ministry did not have the power to sanction employers, supporting a culture of impunity.

But Luis Oscar Estrada, general manager of main textiles and apparel trade lobby Vestex, insisted the country has cleaned up its act and will present evidence later this month.

“In the past year, the Economy and Labor Ministry have been working very hard to meet the enforcement plan,” he said.

AFL-CIO’s Central American director Stephen Wishart disagreed. He said the plan, which gave Guatemala 12 months to fulfill it, called for it to immediately introduce a bill to speed up the Labor Court’s notoriously slow and reportedly corrupted case settlement and sanctioning ability.

The bill was finally submitted last month, Wishart said, adding that its discussion will now likely be delayed until a new government is elected next year. According to Wishart, Guatemala has also failed to quickly settle 38 abuse cases (solving only two) while a “verification unit” to measure employers’ court-order compliance is also failing.

For his part, Schwank said his team strove to timely present the bill but “Congress schedules delayed it.”

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