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Trade Unions Defy “Line In The Sand” Drawn By Government

The Government had given to 5:00 pm Monday, October 8, for the public sector unions to call of the national strike and their membership to return work. Despite the line in the sand, only seven unions, from five institutions, have signed the agreement with the Ministry of Labor.

The Minister of Labor, Steven Nuñez, holds the document signed with the trade unions. Last Monday, the unions were given to October 8 to sign or face the consequences. To date, only 7 unions signed.

They are: the Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores Estatales Costarricense (Siteco); the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja (Undeca), the Sindicato Nacional de Enfermería (Sinae), the Sindicato Nacional Empleados de Salud Pública y Afines (Sinaespa) , the Sindicato de Trabajadores del INA (Sitraina), the Unión de Nacional de Empleados del Inder (Uneinder) and the Sindicato de Profesionales del Inder (Siproinder).

All these agreements signed by different government institutions share very similar points, among them, that there will be no reprisal or discriminatory measure against workers who return to their posts.

The Government gave in to accep the condition of the unions against reprisals for public sector workers in exchange for calling off the their respective strike action, which up to now more than half (17) of the court actions have ruled the strike illegal, while two deemed legal.

As to docking wages of workers for the days off the job, Steven Núñez, Minister of Labor, explained that the agreements stipulate that once the court rulings of illegality are firmed (have exhausted the notification and appeal process) and that “the administration (Government) will act according to the legal system and will meet with the parties to take administrative measures, which include salary reductions, as established in article 379 of the Labor Code, to define together with the union, how the application of this article will be made.”

For his part, Marco Durante, partner at the law firm BDS Asesores, explained to La Nacion, “the reduction of wages should be made in the month following the illegal strike is firm and must be done in a minimum of four payment periods, without interest.”

Durante added that the employers and unions have the possibility to agree on other ways to replace the hours.

“It is the right and the obligation because it is public funds. The employer has to recover in some way the wages paid during the entire time the workers were on a strike declared illegal,” Durante explained, adding that the workers on strike should have never been paid.

According to the Labor Code, the employer (in this case the Government through its institutions and agencies) can recover all the effective days of work not worked from September 10, when the movement began.

There are two positions on this: That of of the unions is that the reduction must be made from the declaration of illegality of the strike; that of the Government, is from the first day of the strike.

Though is clear that, if there was no work, the employer would be justified in not paying the salary when the employee doesn’t show for work, save for days when there is a justification not to work, for example, leave with pay, paid vacations and holidays.

Today, Tuesday, October 9, the national strike enters its 30th day.

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