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Colombia Government Labor Bill Shelved After Legislators Fail to Reach Quorum

BOGOTA, June 20 (Reuters) – A labor reform pushed by Colombia’s government was shelved on Tuesday after committee legislators in Congress’ lower house failed to reach a quorum in a scheduled first debate, dealing a major setback to leftist President Gustavo Petro.

The reform aimed to reduce working hours and boost overtime pay to fight poverty. Critics said it could hurt job creation by increasing salary costs, but Petro argued the bill would solve issues like contractual instability which hurt growth.

“The collapse of the labor reform is very serious,” Petro said in a message via Twitter. “It demonstrates that the desire for peace and social agreement does not exist for economic power. Owners of capital and the media managed to co-opt Congress against the dignity of the working people.”

Debate of the bill before the lower house’s seventh committee, which must approve labor-related bills before they go to the body’s plenary, did not reach quorum in the first debate and voting did not take place.

Tuesday is the last day of the current legislative session. If the government does not schedule extra sessions to debate the bill next week, it can present it from scratch in the next legislative session starting on July 20.

The shelving comes after the lower house said it would pause debate on a trio of reforms proposed by the government amid accusations of campaign finance irregularities, which Petro and campaign staffers have vehemently denied.

The accusations are based on audios sent from former ambassador Armando Benedetti to Petro’s ex-chief of staff, Laura Sarabia.

The finance minister has said the government is willing to make compromises on reforms to get them passed, while ratings agency Moody’s has warned that Colombia’s credit profile may come under pressure if the government is unable to pass the bills due to a lack of governance.

The lower house may also shelve the government’s proposed health reform, while its pension reform passed a Senate committee last week.

Source : Reuters