OAS/Ser.K/XII.11
XI/doc.12/00 corr. 1
12 April 2000
Original: Spanish

INTER-AMERICAN COUNCIL FOR INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT (CIDI)
MEETING TO FOLLOW-UP ON THE DECISIONS ADOPTED AT THE RESDA-XI INTER-AMERICAN CONFERENCE OF MINISTERS OF LABOR

February 24-25, 2000

Washington, D.C.

FINAL REPORT

BACKGROUND

        The Meeting to Follow-up on the Decisions Adopted at the XI Inter-American Conference of Labor Ministers was held February 24 and 25, 2000, at the headquarters of the Organization of American States in Washington D.C. The meeting took place within the framework of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI). It was decided at the XI Inter-American Conference that this Meeting would be held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and this decision was subsequently approved at the XVI Special Meeting of the Permanent Executive Committee (CEPCIDI), held on October 29, 1999. CEPCIDI subsequently authorized the change in venue to Washington D.C. at its LVII Regular Meeting held on December 13, 1999.

PARTICIPANTS

        The list of participants is attached as Appendix XI to this report.

PROCEEDINGS

        The Follow-Up Meeting consisted of an inaugural session, four plenary sessions, and a closing session.

  1. Inaugural Session

        The inaugural session was held on February 24, 2000, at 10:00 a.m. The speakers included Germán Molina Valdivieso, Chairman Pro Tempore of the Conference, and Dr. Cesar Gaviria, Secretary General of the OAS.

        Their speeches appear in Appendices I and II to this report.

B. Plenary Sessions

        1. First plenary session

The first plenary session took place on February 24, 2000, at 11:00 a.m. The following decisions were made at that meeting:

                a. Decision on the Agenda/Timetable

                It was approved unanimously.

                b. Decision on Working Procedure

                It was decided that the agenda would be discussed in plenary.

                c. Election of officers

        The Labor Minister of Chile, Germán Molina, in his capacity as Chairman Pro Tempore of the Conference, served as chairman of the meeting. At the proposal of the Chair, and with the agreement of the meeting, the Labor Minister of El Salvador, Jorge Isidoro Nieto Menéndez, was elected to chair the second and third sessions by acclamation.

        The meeting then took up the first item on the agenda/schedule: Report of the Coordinators of the Working Groups set up by the XI Conference. The Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Advancement of Peru, Fernando García Granara, made the first presentation, as the representative of the country responsible for coordination of Group I on Globalization of the Economy and its Social and Labor Implications. He gave an extensive, detailed explanation of the tasks assigned to this group, the work performed, and the results achieved. This presentation appears in Appendix III to this report.

        Next the Costa Rican Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security, Bernardo Benavides, presented his report, as the representative of the country in charge of coordinating Group II on Modernization of the State and the Administration of Labor. During his comprehensive statement, he referred to the studies, analysis, and proposals of the Group, and highlighted the preparation and implementation of several horizontal cooperation projects. His statement appears in Appendix IV to this report.

        2. Second plenary session

        The second plenary session began at 2:30 p.m., when it took up the progress report on implementation of the Plan of Action of Viña del Mar, introduced by the Chair Pro Tempore, the Chilean Labor Minister.

        In his report, the Minister pointed to the efforts made by the working groups to evaluate the impact of the so-called Asian crisis in the region, and indicated that the global economy should be examined from the standpoint of its cyclical nature, or in other words consideration should be given to changing circumstances that trigger phenomena which have a universal impact.

        In his opinion, the work done by the Chair and the working groups was effective in that it brought out the comparative value of the various policies and the advances achieved by OAS member states in the area of globalization and its social and labor aspects.

        He stated that the challenge was to identify innovations to be made to labor institutions, which, in order to be successful, require an adequate balance between the policies for change and the conditions required for these processes to guarantee real progress and protection of the basic labor rights of workers.

        With regard to modernization of the state and the labor administration, this will require a new design, the introduction of new policies, an ongoing evaluation, and development of efficient social networks. Participation of labor and management in the context of specific policies would enhance the role of the Labor Administration in the area of regulation and enforcement.

        He pointed to the fact that a group of countries had effectively identified the challenges and strengths of labor ministries and established specific areas and spaces for horizontal cooperation. Reference was made to the notable efforts made by ministries of labor in the Americas to modernize their institutions, and especially in Central America and the Caribbean.

        He concluded by stressing the importance, relevance, and strong role that labor ministries should play in the globalized economy to enhance international competitiveness and ensure greater social equity. This presentation can be found in Appendix V to this report.

        The following speaker, Daniel Martínez, a regional adviser of the ILO, made a summary presentation of the paper entitled "Labor Norms in Integration Agreements in the Americas."

        Mr. Martínez said that the document was prepared at the request of Group Nº 1, set up by the XI Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor of the Organization of American States (OAS). Its purpose was to identify the basic labor laws underlying the various integration agreements signed by members of the Organization, which could serve as a basis for including labor concerns in economic integration processes.

        The paper discusses the various integration experiences in the Americas, with a view to identifying the labor rules and norms set forth in the different instruments.

        The charters and other rules and regulations emanating from the various integration experiences currently under way in the Americas were studied, in addition to the inter-American instruments of the Organization of American States (OAS), which is also pursuing integration efforts in political and cultural spheres more than in economic and commercial areas. The document referred to appears as Appendix VI.

MINISTERIAL DISCUSSION

        The ministerial discussion began with the previous presentations. The Peruvian Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Advancement then proposed that the working groups continue their work for the specific purpose of pursuing development of the Viña del Mar Plan and of thereby facilitating inclusion of other relevant labor issues discussed as part of national agendas.

        Argentina’s Deputy Minister of Labor, Employment, and Training of Human Resources, Jorge Sappia, referred to the excellent quality of the document presented by the ILO and said that it would be studied by MERCOSUR’s Group 10, which would then present its views on it.

        He went on to speak of the need to strengthen and promote labor relations through collective bargaining, since this was an effective way to advance economic and social conditions among the labor force.

        He indicated that his government was interested in fostering horizontal cooperation arrangements among countries.

        The United States Labor Secretary, Alexis M. Herman, said it was a pleasure to welcome to Washington, D.C. the labor ministers of the Americas and their distinguished delegations, and members of international organizations.

        During her statement she suggested that the meeting should produce the following three results: the continuation of the work being done jointly within the Organization of American States; the drafting of a document or report on the progress achieved in labor matters, for presentation at the next meeting of the Presidents of the Americas to be held in Canada; and, finally, development of a work plan containing specific projects that could be financed by international cooperation agencies.

        Canadian Labor Minister Claudette Bradshaw indicated that she was in favor of continuing the work of this meeting through the work of the various groups.

        The Brazilian Minister of Labor and Employment, Francisco Dornelles, congratulated the Chairman Pro Tempore on the preparatory work done for this meeting and highlighted the following four points he considered important: the essential need to modernize labor legislation in their countries; the need to intensify work on employment programs and policies; the need to step up efforts to implement labor certification programs; and the need for this forum to discuss the issue of the informal economy and seek ways to control the growth of this sector.

        Guatemalan Deputy Labor Minister Roberto Rodríguez said that two employment programs were being carried out in Guatemala, "Long-Distance Labor Training" and "The Traveling School," which were clear signs of the priority his country attaches to labor matters. He considered that it was important to adapt national laws to the conventions and agreements of the International Labor Organization, whose Labor Code is a basic statute. He said that other aspects of the labor market should be regulated by specific, more flexible regulatory instruments.

        The Minister of Labor and Micro-Enterprises of Bolivia, Luis Vásquez Villamar, maintained that there was a link between productive employment and poverty, since when there is no productive employment, the poverty rate of countries rises.

         He would therefore support the conclusions of the Working Groups and be in favor of continuing them. He also proposed that they take up the topic of productive employment. He ended his statement by saying that there were two different types of jobs in Bolivia, those of the formal and the informal sectors, and that among the activities pursued, measures should be directed to supporting the informal sector, and especially to generating productive, quality jobs in that area.

        CEATAL President Daniel Funes de Rioja congratulated the labor ministers on having correctly identified the major problems facing the labor market. He believed that the labor market should be divided by types of work, since economies comprise both high technology and low technology enterprises, and the labor problems of the two are not the same. He indicated that the legal system of countries is extremely important and should be taken into account by labor ministers in their analyses. He said that his organization would like to be considered when it came time to formulate projects to be financed by international organizations.

        3. Third Plenary Session

        This session opened at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, February 25 with statements by AFL-CIO President and COSATE representative John Sweeny from the United States. He referred to the importance of having a dialogue with the labor ministers of the region, since the well-being of workers in the United States is linked to the fate of workers in the Americas. He indicated that world economic growth and investment had not benefited either the majority of the population or workers, and he stated that ILO standards should be linked to free trade treaties. He stated that respect for workers’ rights and practices was important for development and economic growth. He said that his organization was committed to efforts to relieve the debt of developing countries and he proposed that labor unions and Ministries of Labor should form an alliance to support efforts to modernize the ministries and strengthen the collective bargaining process and labor union freedoms. His presentation is transcribed in Appendix VII.

        The third plenary session continued with a presentation of the document on proposed areas of labor policy that could be part of technical cooperation programs by the Chair Pro Tempore of the XI Inter-American Conference.

        He began by saying that this was the second version of a document containing the observations of Working Groups I and II, along with contributions from the United States Department of Labor. He further stated that the paper took into account the measures proposed in the Viña del Mar Plan of Action, and included a brief summary of the contents of each of the areas dealt with in that document, as follows:

        Employment and Labor Institutions; Collective Bargaining; Labor Relations; Occupational Education and Training; Systems for Protection of the Unemployed; Labor Information Systems; Compliance with Labor Regulations; and, Modernization of Labor Justice and Labor-Management Dialogue. The document in question appears in Appendix VIII.

         Following the agenda for the meeting, the Director of the ILO Regional Office in Lima, Peru, Dr. Víctor Tockman, spoke next to comment on the document presented by the Chair Pro Tempore.

        He reported that the ILO would work to build up the capacity of countries to comply with labor laws and standards. He stated that the ILO would assist efforts to modernize labor policies and to modernize labor ministries. He ended by saying that the ILO would maintain its commitment to the inter-American system of the OAS to support efforts at modernization by providing technical cooperation.

         The Minister of Labor and Cooperatives of Trinidad and Tobago, Harry Partap, indicated that his country was prepared to adopt the labor standards but that it needed assistance in implementing the changes.

        The next speaker, Gustavo Márquez, representing the IDB, congratulated the ministers on the work they had accomplished and said that the Bank could provide support to countries in their efforts to strengthen their labor markets and that it was particularly interested in specific policies that would produce concrete results in the following areas: child labor, in cooperation with the ILO; workers’ health and sanitary and safety conditions at the work place; labor mediation and collective labor rights. He added that once the Chair Pro Tempore and the Technical Council had defined which projects would be submitted to international organizations for financing, the IDB would invite them to a working meeting to determine lines of action for those projects that were in the Bank’s priority areas.

        OAS Director of Social Development and Education, Benno Sanders, stated that his Organization gave priority to supporting the forum of labor ministers and the Chair Pro Tempore in following up on the plans of action determined by the Conference, and especially with regard to activities financed by CIDI, such as the following: the labor market information system; formulation and management of a productive employment policies and training for labor; policies for development of small enterprises, with a focus on micro-enterprises and the informal sector and youth enterprises. He said that a fund with support from the private sector had been created for this purpose. His statement appears in Appendix IX.

MINISTERIAL DISCUSSION

        Deputy Labor Minister José Sappia of Argentina praised the Chairman Pro Tempore, Germán Molina, for the excellent report he presented, and said that it should be considered in the future work of the Ministers.

        With regard to the document entitled "Aspects of Labor Policy," he indicated that this new version reflected to a great extent the comments made by the Argentine delegation at the last meeting in Lima. However, he had the following observations to make:

        On item 2, Collective Bargaining, d), reference was made to the basic information of companies, but there was no information as to the appropriate procedure in the case of high-level negotiations.

        On item 4, Occupational Education and Training, it stated in the second paragraph that short-term contracts generate uncertainty and distrust, which is true, but this statement contradicts the suggestion appearing under 1 b) on modalities. Item 1 b) should be corrected to make it consistent with this statement..

        Still on item 4, preference was given to public financing of training, in the form of "tax incentives," "special incentives," "training bonds with public financing," under c) and "public sources" under g). This is not consistent with the Plan of Action of Viña del Mar, which promotes joint public and private financing (1 c).

       System for Protection of the Unemployed. The title given to this area is different from what it was called in the Plan of Action of Viña del Mar (Section on "Working Groups", 1), which referred to "Assistance Systems for Unemployed Workers". This topic is one of the areas covered by Group I of the Conference, which was given the task of "preparing a report on the situation in the region, new initiatives … and formulation of useful criteria…" (Viña del Mar, idem). To fulfill this mandate, Group I decided to exchange experiences at its first meeting in Lima, June 1999, and "to ask the ILO for support in updating and evaluating these experiences." The final report of the Second Meeting of Group I indicated "that the issue should be approached from an integral standpoint," "that the financial problem is a complex one," and that the Group should continue "compiling information and comparing experiences." The document indicated the Group’s unanimous position that "it is necessary to have new institutions" (second paragraph), and it suggested as a possible formula "individual capitalization based on bipartite contributions" and a "common tripartite fund," but not others, such as the exclusive financing of employers or the government, or a bipartite funding by the government and employers. The proposal actually goes well beyond what the Group has done, since it is still involved in compiling and analyzing experiences, and has not yet discussed the need for new institutions, and no progress has been made on modernization as suggested in 5b [meaning unclear].

        In this area, the draft should stick to cooperation in compiling and analyzing experiences, and refrain from drawing conclusions that may eventually arise from the analysis which is still going on.

        Under item 9 "Social Dialogue," paragraph f), on the issue of training negotiators, reference is made first to the economy, thereby establishing a sort of order of priority. It would seem that training in the area of labor relations should take precedence over other areas.

        The Minister of Labor and Employment of Brazil, Francisco Dornelles, expressed his recognition to the Chair Pro Tempore for the quality of the document. He went on to specify the areas of labor policy to which his government assigned priority in the context of technical assistance programs:

        In the area of Employment and Institutionality, a study and proposal on norms and mechanisms to balance labor costs with incentives to create and maintain high quality jobs would be of particular interest. It would also be interesting to conduct a study of collective bargaining tools that would help preserve jobs during times of reduced productive activity.

        As for Collective Bargaining, priority should be given to a study and proposed negotiating or bargaining mechanisms geared to the situation of the country and the variety of companies, and to a study and proposals for developing labor negotiators.

       On Labor Relations, proposed programs to modernize labor organization and management in small enterprises are of interest, as is the performance contract salary system. These are considered to be innovative aspects that could improve the labor situation in small businesses.

        In the area of Occupational Education and Training, programs for development of basic skills and training programs for unemployed workers from vulnerable segments of society are topics of special interest.

       As for the System for Protection of the Unemployed, priority is assigned to a study of ways of linking monetary unemployment benefits with guidance and occupational training services.

        With regard to Labor Information Systems, priority should be given to mechanisms for gathering and analyzing labor information, and to strengthening the analytical capacity of labor ministries to analyze the current or projected behavior of the labor market.

        On the subject of Compliance with Labor Regulations, a minimum set of workers’ rights must be guaranteed, and so priority should be given to programs to promote the rights set forth by the ILO.

        With reference to Modernization of Labor Justice, possible proposals to amend procedural rules to expedite labor justice system should be studied.

         The area of Labor-Management Dialogue is linked to collective bargaining. Other topics could also be discussed in relation to this topic, to expand the circle of labor negotiators.

         CEATAL Representative Daniel Funes de Rioja had the following to say. To advance small enterprises, we should look into reducing government bureaucracy and simplifying it, as this would create an atmosphere conducive to developing employment and growth of small businesses. The management sector believes that the systems should be coordinated, so that the informal sector is incorporated into the formal sector. Moreover, the labor justice system should be modernized, with a view to enhancing clarity and transparency in rules and regulations. He concluded by saying that integration should be accomplished on the basis of the actual situation, and that to eliminate the gap between the informal and formal sectors, the formal sector will have to be further developed.

         The Deputy Labor Minister of Peru, Fernando García G., pointed to the importance of developing a labor information system to support the decision-making process in labor ministries. In this regard, he requested support for the SISMEL project.

        The Guatemalan Deputy Labor Minister, Roberto Rodríguez, suggested that to regulate the labor market, mechanisms should be developed to make it possible to adjust labor rules and regulations to new practices in management and labor, to ensure that a balance between the two sectors is maintained.

        Venezuelan Labor Minister Lino A. Martínez Salazar indicated that a practice of subcontracting was used in Venezuela as a way of evading labor contract rules, instead of using more effective labor mechanisms such as collective bargaining or negotiations. He proposed that this type of practices be abolished and requested inclusion of this topic on the agenda of the Working Groups.

        With regard to the document, he stated that it focused primarily on the state, and that it should be reoriented so that it would reflect the labor interests of the participants in the labor market. Consideration should be given to the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations of employers and workers, to ensure that management does not look for ways to avoid protection for workers and that labor and trade unions fulfill their responsibilities.

        4. Fourth Plenary Session

        The fourth plenary session began at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, February 25, with a discussion on the Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec, Canada in May of 2001.

        Canadian Labor Minister Claudette Bradshaw indicated that efforts to modernize the state should continue. She suggested that the previous commitments of the labor ministers of the Americas should be evaluated. She believes that it is critical to find a way to achieve agreement on common problems affecting the environment, trade, and labor. Specific activities should be developed with international organizations, the private sector, and the labor sector. Labor ministers should indicate their areas of interest, so that they can be presented in Quebec. She further proposed that labor ministers should initiate a dialogue with Ministers of Foreign Affairs, to determine the priority topics to be discussed in Quebec in 2001.

        The agreements and resolutions of the meeting were then discussed.

        The Chair Pro Tempore of the Conference proposed two resolutions for adoption: one on continuing the work assigned to the Working Groups in the Plan of Action of Viña del Mar; and another on the Proposed Labor Policy Areas. To this end, the Advisory Council should be immediately convened to work out the final preparation of the technical assistance program envisaged in the Plan of Action.

         The Deputy Labor Minister of Peru proposed consideration of the following two resolutions: one related to the Multilateral Project on the "Labor Market Information System (SISMEL)," to give official support for its financing by IDB beginning in the year 2000; and, another one on Promotion of Productive Employment and Small and Micro-Enterprises.

        Grenada’s Minister of Legal and Labor Matters, Elvin G. Nimrod, expressed his interest in including the island states of the Caribbean in SISMEL. The chair informed him that his country was included in SISMEL.

        The Chair Pro Tempore submitted a resolution to the effect that the XII Inter-American Conference of Ministers would be held in Canada in 2001, and paid tribute to the decision made by Bolivia and Ecuador to postpone their interest in hosting the upcoming Inter-American Conferences of Labor Ministers. This same resolution provides for the XIII conference of Ministers of Labor to be held in Brazil in the year 2003.

        The Salvadoran Labor Minister made a proposal to the following effect: to congratulate Group I on their initiative to carry out the study of "Labor Regulations in Integration Agreements in the Americas" and the ILO for preparing it; to request that delegates take note of the document, and that countries be urged to send in their comments and views to the Chair Pro Tempore, in the next 30 days so that the chairman, with the support of the working groups, may present his recommendations to the XII Inter-American Conference of Labor Ministers. It was so agreed.

         The Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security of Costa Rica proposed that a vote of thanks be given to the Chairman Pro Tempore, the Salvadoran Minister of Labor, the ILO, IDB, and the General Secretariat of the OAS for the work done and the accomplishments realized at the Meeting. These proposals were approved as resolutions, and are included in Appendix X to this Report.

        Finally, the Chair Pro Tempore read to the plenary a letter sent to him from Dr. Laura E. Nuñez de Ponce, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Honduras and Chairman of the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, CEPCIDI, in which she requests that the Chairman consult with the labor ministers of the member states regarding the advisability of establishing an Inter-American Labor Commission made up of political and technical officials in the countries. This Commission would have the task of preparing future ministerial meetings under CIDI, among other functions. The Chair Pro Tempore proposed to the plenary that it authorize the Chairman Pro Tempore to request the Chairman of CEPCIDI to provide more information on the legal implications, so that this issue could be discussed at the XII Inter-American Conference of Labor Ministers to be held in Canada.

  1. Closing Session

        Germán Molina, Minister of Labor of Chile and Chairman Pro Tempore of the XI Inter-American Conference of Ministers of Labor, expressed his satisfaction at the results of the meeting and the contributions and efforts made by all the countries. He thanked Bolivia and Ecuador once again for their show of solidarity, congratulated the working groups and the ministers in attendance for the documents presented and the decisions made, and expressed his best wishes for the success of the next conferences to be held in Canada and Brazil

[Labour/tracker.htm]