ICE Workers Strike illegal for affecting essential services; National strike continues

On Monday, two separate courts declared strikes illegal at the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS).

On Monday, two separate courts declared the strike by ICE and INS workers illegal. Foto: Alonso Tenorio

In the case of ICE (the State electricity and telecom), labor judge, Yadir Jiménez, of the Primer Circuito Judicial de San José (First Judicial Circuit of San José), ruled that, there was no evidence that the unions tried to reach a conciliation prior to the call for a strike, “besides that the sector of electricity and telephony is an essential public service, so it fits within the prohibition of the right to strike, since you cannot deprive the Costa Rican population of such rights.”

The judge mentioned, for example, that the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization (ILO) has determined that electricity is an essential public service, so that those whose job is to provide electricity to the population cannot join work stoppages.

Despite the declaration of illegality, the Court rejected the request made by the ICE administration to dock wages.

In the case of the State national insurer, INS, Judge César Roberto Delgado Montoya, of the Juzgado Civil y Trabajo del III Circuito Judicial de Alajuela (Civil and Labor Court of the Third Judicial Circuit of Alajuela), considered that the Union Union of INS Staff (UPINS) did not comply with the requirements of exhaustion of conciliation, nor with the minimum of support established in the Labor Code.

Judge Delgado determined that the UPINS also did not provide proof that the General Assembly of the union approved the strike’s support against the tax reform approved by legislators last Friday in the first debate.

Of the INS payroll, only 28 people joined the strike called by the trade unionists, when the Labor Code requires, for the strike to be legal, that at least 50% of the workers support the work action.

“(…) The UPINS failed to prove that the strike movement complied with the minimum support, since no evidence was submitted that proves that the participation reached the minimum of the Law, this is the 50% required, nor is there any document regarding the General Assembly of the Union where the strike call is agreed to, as established in the aforementioned articles.

“It was considered that only 23 people from the San Ramón regional office, 4 from Liberia and one from Ciudad Neilly, for a total of 28 people, were accredited to the strike movement”, reads the arguments of the court ruling.

Payment of costs

In addition, the courts ordered UPINS to pay ¢1 million colones (US$1,750 dollars at today’s dollar exchange) in costs and eight ICE unions to pay ¢500,000 (US$865 dollars) for the same reason.

In the case of UPINS, the judge considered that the conviction was admissible because the union acted with negligence. According to the ruling, the leaders of the union went on strike without noting “that all the necessary conditions were in place so that the rights of the workers who attended the summons were not affected”.

In the ICE rulings, the trade uions to pay the fine are: the Asociación Sindical de Trabajadores de Telecomunicaciones, Electricidad y Afines (Anttea), the Asociación Nacional de Técnicos y Trabajadores de la Energía y las Comunicaciones (Anttec), the Asociación Sindical de Empleados Industriales de las Comunicaciones y la Energía (Asdeice), the Sindicato de Ingenieros del Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad y Afines (Siice), the Sindicato de Profesionales del Grupo ICE (Siproice), the Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores Eléctricos y de Telecomunicaciones (Sitet), the Asociación de Abogados y Profesionales del Grupo ICE (Abogaproice) and the Asociación Sindical Costarricense de Telecomunicaciones y Electricidad (Acotel).

With ICE and INS rulings, a total of 17 strikes have declared illegal and two others declared as legal. In total, 32 institutions and autonomous agencies (such as ICE and INS) made court filings.

The national strike today continues in its 30th day.

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