After many years of debates both inside and outside the Parliament, a package of reforms designed to speed up the labour tribunal system and give more rights to trade unions was finally approved by legislators in San José on 14th December.
The package voted this week - by all but two of the members present - only differs in one aspect from the package approved in 2012 that was subsequently vetoed by then President Laura Chinchilla: it does not include a clause that would allow strikes in essential public services. This thorny issue was excluded from the package and will be tackled in separate legislation.
There was huge disappointment amongst workers and unions when the former President vetoed the package on the grounds that the Constitution did not permit strike action in essential services. When the current President Luis Guillermo Solis came into office, one of his early moves was to remove the veto. However, this removal of the veto was challenged by the business community in the Constitutional Court. The Court ruled earlier this year that the clauses on strikes in essential services were anti-constitutional.
The new text excluded these clauses and was approved with cross-party approval in both first and second reading.
“We have been able to rescue one of the most significant reforms for the working people of this country. It is vital that workers study this reform and use its measures. It is a really important gain for them” said member of parliament Gerardo Vargas Varela for the “Broad Front” party, which had made contributions to the text over the last decade.
"This historic step shows that both businesses and workers continue to contribute to Costa Rcia’s development in a spirit of peaceful labour relations”, added Labour Minister Victor Morales.
Plantation workers’ leader Didier Leiton Valverde was “very happy at this giant step” and pointed out that the SITRAP trade union which he leads was one of the most active in pushing for the approval of the package.
Sources: various Costa Rican press 9th-14th Decermber and SITRAP Siquirres.
Photo: former President Chinchilla with Directoir-General of the ILO Guy Ryder in 2013