The US denounces forced labor conditions in employees of the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry
The U.S. Department of Labor announced Tuesday the release of its seventh report, detailing current concerns about “egregious working conditions” and labor law enforcement challenges in the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry.
The findings of the 44-page report are being released in the context of President Luis Abinader’s visit to the U.S. capital to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss the Haitian issue.
According to the U.S. agency, the DR Ministry of Labor and the sugar companies have made significant progress. However, concerns persist about unsafe working conditions, wage and hour verification, inadequate living conditions, the precarious legal status of workers, and other possible abuses of the labor rights of these employees.
“The Department of Labor remains committed to improving conditions for workers in the Dominican Republic by building on long-standing cooperation to address enforcement and outreach challenges,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Thea Lee.
“Our broad commitment to these issues protects the rights of workers in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. by combating unfair competition with exploited labor,” he continued.
Months ago, a report was released by a group of U.S. congressional members of the Subcommittee on Commerce presented the same concerns outlined in the Department of Labor’s document. It was then that the Dominican Sugar Industry denied that forced labor exists in its sector.
“Our sugar industry has been transformed in the last 20 years, applying new technologies to improve agricultural yields, the implementation of good practices in the use of protective equipment and industrial safety, the training of personnel skills in the field, and numerous social welfare programs that seek the integrity of thousands of men and women,” it said in a July 2022 communiqué.
In the document, the U.S. DOL said that during a March 2022 visit to the Dominican Republic, they spoke with more than 200 field workers, government and company officials, labor unions, and other civil society groups throughout the country.
“Today’s release is the latest in a series of periodic reports since a 2013 review report issued by the department in response to a submission filed under the Labor Chapter of the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement,” they noted.
They asserted that the 2013 report identified labor concerns in the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry and provided their government with recommendations to improve the enforcement of Dominican labor laws.
“These reports offer ways for the government of the Dominican Republic and other stakeholders to improve working conditions and labor law enforcement. This guide will help inform the U.S. government’s continued engagement and technical assistance,” the document concludes.