Media Center

Press Release


  September 13, 2007

A $2 million grant approved by the United States will go towards supporting a comprehensive program of labor rights projects in six partner countries that are party to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-Dominican Republic) signed with the United States.

To be implemented by the Organization of American States (OAS)-affiliated non-profit Trust for the Americas, jointly with the OAS Department of Social Development and Employment (DSDE), the 24-month initiative involves Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The grant agreement is part of a larger United States government commitment of some $40 million per year for 2006-2009 “to build the capacity of labor ministries, in dialogue with social partners, to better carry out their responsibilities in safeguarding the rights of workers,” Michael Puccetti, the U.S. Deputy National Summit Coordinator, explained as he announced the contribution at a brief ceremony during the Fifteenth Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor that ends in Trinidad and Tobago today.

“The United States is committed to free trade and [is] committed to ensuring that the benefits of free trade are enjoyed by workers and their families,” added Puccetti, who also commended CAFTA countries for seizing labor challenges and created opportunities for achievements and success. The US government commitment involves the State Department, Department of Labor, Office of the US Trade Representative and US Agency for International Development (USAID).

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, meanwhile, hailed the grant agreement and thanked the US government for this major boost to labor-related initiatives. He further underscored the need for greater levels of compliance with labor laws as well as for more training for workers. Insulza said businesses stand to benefit by being more rigorous in their labor practices, as compliance with labor laws is a key component of such agreements.

Others on hand for the grant announcement included Charlotte Ponticelli, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs at the US Department of Labor, as well as representatives of the CAFTA-DR countries and other ministers and conference delegates.

Among other objectives, the $2 million initiative targeting the six CAFTA-DR countries will help raise awareness and understanding among workers regarding their rights under current labor laws and how to claim them; build capacity of both worker and employer organizations engaged in compliance issues; and build the advocacy and technical capacity of civil society organizations, including labor and human rights NGOs, labor rights attorney and public policy advocacy organizations.

Reference: E-219/07