Costa Rica: Labour reforms approved in Parliament

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San José, 13th September: The Costa Rican Parliament today approved a large package of labour law reforms. Some hail the almost unanimous vote as the most significant advances in justice for workers since the Labour Code was created 60 years ago.

The package of reforms will speed up conflict resolution processes in the country's legal system, strengthen collective bargaining rights in the public sector and improve some trade union rights. 

Highly controversial clauses that would have enshrined in law the role of so-called 'permanent workers' committees' and the 'direct settlements' they sign with management, particularly prevalent in the agribusiness sector, were taken out of the package after negotiations between the trade unions and employers' organisations.

The package, known as the Labour Procedures Reform, was approved by 40 of the 44 members of parliament present in the plenary vote. It will pass into law in 18 months' time.

Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Sandra Piszk, had told the last hearing of the Legal Affairs Committee o,n the bill that she was pleased that there was agreement between employers and the trade union movement because the legislation was necessary, not to sat urgent. Indeed, the International Labour Organisation has been highlighting problems with certain aspects of Costa Rican labour legislation and its compatibility with international conventions for over a decade.

Oscar Alfaro Zamora, member for the Liberación party in government and chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, who presided over dozens of hearings before reaching the vote, said it was «a definite step towards consolidating dialogue ». Whilst opposition member for the Frente Amplio, José María Villalta, said that the reform would mean « more options for both public and private sector workers to defend themselves, more justice in the workplace and would enable the development of trade union freedom in our country ».

Sources : lavozliberacionista blog, www.elpais.cr and ANEP