2 – Repeated violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Costa Rica

The ITUC affiliates in Costa Rica are the Central del Movimiento de Trabajadores Costarricenses (CMTC) and the Confederación de Trabajadores Rerum Novarum (CTRN).

In practice

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Law reforms increase the right to strike30-01-2015

At the end of December 2014, the President of Costa Rica lifted the veto on the labour code reform, granting trade unions greater freedoms and expanding the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
. However at the beginning of 2015 the employers submitted a petition of unconstitutionality to the Constitutional Court.
The signing of Labour Code reforms recognising inter alia the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
led to a clash between the President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, and the political opposition and employers. Most of the labour reforms are aimed at greater justice for the working class, and at the country’s compliance therefore with its commitments to international human rights bodies such as the International Labour Organisation.
The Patria Justa trade union coalition, composed of six unions and several workers confederations in Costa rica, warmly thanked the President for lifting the veto on the labour reform process.

Costa Rican teachers on strike 24-04-2015

On 24 April 2015 over 30,000 school teachers from throughout Costa Rica went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in protest at what trade union leaders and activists called the introduction of neoliberal economic policies in the country. The Association of Secondary School Teachers (Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza APSE) stated that the economic policies implemented by the Solís administration threatened workers’ rights and living standards.

In a press release, APSE said that the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
would be the beginning of a struggle against all policies that posed a serious risk to workers’ minimum living standards. It noted the anxiety felt by thousands of workers who saw their jobs and salaries in danger; it also spoke of corruption, dirty business deals, impunity, tax evasion, the loss of sovereignty, environmental damage, repression, the privatisation of basic services, the loss of labour rights, all as a result of neoliberal policies.

The aim was to demonstrate the union’s emphatic opposition to the Public Employment Act (a single salary for each job for public employees), the Labour Procedure Reform (which would affect the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
), the Income and Sales Tax Reform Bill, and the exclusion of temporary workers from social security insurance.

During 2014 and 201530-09-2014

During 2014 and 2015, the banana and pineapple plantations kept up the practice of dismissing and blacklisting unionised workers. Employers create a climate of fear, pushing workers to end their membership and thus preventing unions from reaching the percentage required by law to negotiate collective agreements. In a number of municipalities, the jobs held by trade union leaders were eliminated so that they could be dismissed, and some mayors offered organised workers better pay and conditions in exchange for leaving the union.

Individual rights used to undermine freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework

Companies have adopted the practice of using the groundless dismissal option, through which employers are able to unilaterally terminate an employment relationship on paying the worker the corresponding compensation. Employers are able to use this provision to dismiss anyone forming or joining a trade union. Dismissal on grounds of serious misconduct is another tactic used by employers to rid themselves of workers, without having to pay any severance or compensation, with the employers themselves deciding what constitutes serious misconduct. This is the resource most widely used by employers to remove trade union leaders and members, to weaken their organisations and to sow fear among unionised workers.

In Costa Rica, employers and the government do not use the strategy of fostering the creation of “yellow” or company-backed unions, but have developed and promoted, rather, the Solidarista Associations, which are governed by a special law allowing employers to transfer funds to them. They are also, moreover, often raised to constitutional rank.

Employers negotiate with the Permanent Committees composed of workers whose election they are able to influence by means of “direct arrangements”. Employers use these arrangements to block collective agreements.

In 2014, a member of parliament, Otto Guevara Gutt, from the Libertarian Movement Party (PML), initiated unconstitutionality proceedings against a collective agreement signed in 2013 by the Public Education Ministry, the teachers’ union Sindicato de Educadores Costarricenses and the school canteen workers’ union Sindicato de Trabajadores de Comedores Escolares. The collective agreement covers the labour rights and conditions of 78,000 workers.

On 30 September 2014, members of the SITRACHIRI union working at the banana plantations owned by Chiriquí Land Company and managed by Chiquita Brands, held a four-hour stoppage. The labour court immediately declared the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
illegal and the company proceeded to make deductions from the workers’ wages.

The government of President Solís lifted the veto imposed by the former government, permitting the approval of Law 9076 aimed at reforming the Labour Procedure Code. The new reforms include extending the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
to essential services essential services Services the interruption of which would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or part of the population. Can include the hospital sector, electricity and water supply services, and air traffic control. Strikes can be restricted or even prohibited in essential services.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, such as health and education, insofar as minimum services are guaranteed. The workers and trade union organisations welcomed the law, whilst the business sector fiercely condemned the decision.

Costa Rica has a Supreme Labour Council, which is tripartite, but it is not convened by the Labour Ministry as it ought to be. It is within this Council that consultations should be held with trade unions regarding labour decisions, but this is not the case in practice.

The courts are independent. Notwithstanding, both the Legislative and the Executive Power, and their institutions, have used the Constitutional Chamber to have the rights settled on in collective agreements in the public sector declared unconstitutional. The Committee of Experts has stated that these Constitutional Chamber rulings are in breach of ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Convention 98.

Port workers arrested during violent police attack on strikers 23-10-2014

Hundreds of police officers stormed Puerto Limon’s Moin and Limon terminals on 23 October 2014, violently attacking workers and arresting 68 men and women who were peacefully striking. The port re-opened the next day, replacing the detained members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Japdeva y Afines Portuarios (SINTRAJAP) with strikebreakers, some of them from nearby countries. According Costa Rican Security Minister Celso Gamboa, the strikers “had to be arrested to resume activity”.

SINTRAJAP launched the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
in protest at the construction of a $1 billion private maritime terminal to be built by the Dutch firm APM Terminals. The union was demanding modifications in the contract, arguing that it provided APM with an illegal monopoly in container handling operations which would threaten the future of the two terminals of the state-owned port company Japdeva. Japdeva has an explicit role as a regional economic development engine, helping to fund education and health services.

The union won significant support at home, with other workers and the local community fearing the loss of Japdeva’s much-needed public sector income and the potentially damaging environmental impact of the new facility. It also received widespread support from trade unions in other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands and India, and from the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

SINTRAJAP suspended its strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
after 15 days, when the government gave into mounting pressure and agreed to re-examine the future of the vital ports of Limon and Moin and promised to cease police violence against the strikers.

Blatant union busting on banana plantation27-02-2015

Banana workers at three major banana plantations on Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean coast went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
on 16 January 2015 in protest at the harassment and dismissal of trade unionists, changes in schedules and working conditions and delayed payment of wages. More than 300 labourers working on plantations for a branch of the U.S. corporation Fresh Del Monte went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
after being laid off on 31 December 2014 then rehired on 3 January 2015, as “new” employees, despite legal precedent requiring at least one month’s break of contract for that status to apply.

The plantations that went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
belong to Corbana (Corporación Bananera Nacional) and are leased to Fresh Del Monte. The union, a local branch of the Sitepp (Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Empresa Pública y Privada), was founded two years earlier, when workers went on strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
over subhuman conditions, poor wages and immigration problems. In December 2014 the contract with Corbana expired, and when they renewed it, the company dismissed all of the workers and only hired back those who were in its own company-created union.

The company had set up its own union, tailored to its needs, in response to an inspection by the Labour Ministry in May 2014, according to the president of Sitepp, Luis Serrano. The inspection had revealed a number of violations of the country’s labour laws, including the intimidation and harassment of workers, and the Ministry ordered the companies to redress them. It was through this yellow union yellow union A union set up and/or controlled by the employer to prevent the establishment of a genuine trade union. that the company tried to take over the negotiation of the collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
agreement that expired in December 2014. The company launched a campaign against the Sitepp and started to give benefits to its own union.

An estimated 95 per cent of the strikers were indigenous people from Panama. The strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
escalated when Panamanian banana workers blocked traffic for a number of hours on the bridge over the Sixaola River, which connects Costa Rica and Panama, on 20 and 21 February 2015. The roadblock and the fact that the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
was being held by Panamanians on a Costa Rican plantation forced both governments to agree, on 27 February, to sit down and negotiate. The negotiating team was due to deliver its recommendations at the end of March.

The talks included representatives of Bandeco, the local branch of the Sitepp, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and Panama’s Ministry of Labour. As part of the agreement, the company promised to immediately rehire 64 workers and to not evict the dismissed workers from their homes.

Unfair dismissals at TICOFRUT18-03-2014

On 14 March 2014, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), reported the dismissal of three hundred workers from the TICOFRUT agri-food export company, based on Costa Rica’s northern border. The workers were dismissed after demanding better working conditions.

According to the report sent to the TUCA, the Nicaraguan workers employed by TICOFRUT are undocumented in the main. They work under appalling conditions, earning no more than 3,000 to 5,000 colones for a ten-hour day. They are transported in trucks that are in a very poor state of repair, endangering their health and safety. They have to work Sundays and public holidays without overtime pay, and have no social security or insurance cover, etc. The workers were unfairly dismissed after asking for better working conditions.

Dole threatens the trade union31-12-2012

In November 2012, whilst SINTRASTAFCOR and the multinational fruit company DOLE were engaged in a collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
negotiation process, the trade union was informed that the company was going to carry out a restructuring process with the loss of 60 jobs. Employing a threatening tone, company representatives indicated that they would close all their operations in the area if the trade union did not agree to the job losses.

Pressure from Del Monte to break a strike29-06-2013
Violation of collective agreement31-01-2013

In January 2013, the government attempted to introduce a new bill to eliminate extra salary benefits for teachers and other public sector workers in violation of collective agreements negotiated decades ago by unions. The Public Sector Salary Bill would affect benefits bonuses that are exclusive to educators such as annuities and extra pay for work outside of the classroom.

Intervention in union premises31-03-2012

In March 2012, 56 judicial investigation representatives and several riot police, all of whom were armed, forced their way into the offices of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA y Afines Portuarios (SINTRAJAP). The block in which the union’s facilities are located in the port of Limon, was cordoned off and citizens were prevented from entering the building. The unionists were held in the office and were then, one by one, taken into custody in the area outside the cordon.

Anti-union discrimination31-01-2013

In January 2012, the president of the Finca Monte Providencia union and members of parliament in Costa Rica denounced labour rights violations in pineapple plantations belonging to the Standard Fruit Company. Pineapple workers in the Huetar North, Caribbean and South Zone districts were unfairly dismissed, particularly those attempting to join a union or those disabled by work-related accidents.

Trade union rights not respected in practice31-12-2010

The ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
’s supervisory bodies have repeatedly pointed out the slowness and inefficiency of the procedures to sanction and redress anti-trade union actions, the cancellation of clauses in some collective agreements and the serious imbalance between the number of collective agreements and “direct arrangements” with non-unionised workers.

It is almost impossible to form and run trade unions in the private sector, owing to the combined effect of the promotion of “solidarismo” and employer opposition. Employers sometimes use methods that go against both the law and moral standards in order to discourage the formation of new trade unions or destroy existing ones. The Rerum Novarum Workers’ Confederation (CTRN) reported that the ANFO company refused to recognise the SITRAPECORI union. Workers at the Chiriquí Land Company also faced difficulties in negotiating collective agreements.

Export processing zones (EPZs) without unions30-11-2009
Collective bargaining virtually non-existent in the private sector30-11-2009

Collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
has been reduced to a bare minimum in the private sector. Instead of collective agreements, there are many “direct arrangements” with non-unionised workers who are grouped together in “permanent workers’ committees”. The legislation allows for the creation of such committees provided there is a minimum of three workers, whereas for a union to be recognised as a bargaining unit bargaining unit A group of workers within a particular company, establishment, industry or occupation that constitutes an appropriate unit for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See bargaining agent
, it must have a minimum of 12 workers and represent at least one third of employees. The unions are critical of the fact that, in most cases, these “direct arrangements” are promoted by employers and the Labour Ministry to prevent the formation of unions and encourage solidarismo.

Complicit public authorities and slow and inefficient procedures30-11-2009

Although illegal, anti-union practices are usually tolerated by the authorities, and the sanctions are too mild to be dissuasive. Given the complexity of the procedures, securing the reinstatement of workers who have been unfairly dismissed takes an average of three years, which is long enough to do away with a trade union. The National Labour Inspectorate (DNIT) usually takes longer than the maximum two-month period foreseen by the Constitutional Court to certify that a violation has taken place. When a case does go to trial, it can take several years to reach a verdict.

Anti-union strategies, freedom to dismiss workers, and labour flexibility30-11-2009

Trade unions have long been complaining that private sector employers refuse to recognise them and dismiss workers who try to join a trade union. Legally recognised freedom of dismissal facilitates these anti-union strategies and is becoming the main barrier to the formation of new trade unions in the private sector, as any attempt to organise carries the risk of instant dismissal. Similarly, “flexible” contracts also succeed in blocking any attempt to organise.

Trade union rights systematically undermined30-11-2009

The effective exercise of trade union rights is, in practice, fraught with obstacles. In the private sector, unions are practically non-existent, owing to a wanton combination of anti-union strategies, government indifference and the promotion of solidarismo associations (employer-backed associations that act as a barrier to the formation of trade unions within companies), compounded by persistent anti-unionism in the media. The Ministry of Labour receives constant complaints regarding anti-union harassment. In the public sector, unions are confronted with relentless attempts by the government, employers and the media to strip them of any legitimacy.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) has no mechanism to promote the right to freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
. On the contrary, the MTSS promotes an “alternative” to trade unions, limiting the authority and autonomy of workers and undermining internationally recognised trade union instruments such as the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
and collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
.

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