Public employee sector unions are calling for a strike on February 25 against the 0.43% salary increase.
Public employee sector unions are calling for a strike on February 25 against the 0.43% salary increase.

The aspiration of many in Costa Rica is to work in the public sector, higher wages being the motivating factor, as employees of the central government and autonomous institutions earn up to 50% more than in the private sector.

Unlike workers on the “other side”, public employees receive in addition to the salaries, benefits like incentives based on years of employment and occupational hazards pay.

An example of the difference is person with a professional degree can expect to earn a monthly minimum wage of ¢486.344 colones (US$950 dollars) in the private sector, while in the public sector, with all the benefits, the minimum wage is ¢819.994 colones (US$1,605 dollars).

The benefits can add up. For example, the salary increase for the first half of this year decreed for public sector employees is 0.43%. But if you add in all the benefits, the salary hike is really between 5% and 9.17%.

“One of the most serious problems facing this country is the cost of public employment. It is creating a privileged sector…”, according to the Minsitro de Hacienda (Finance Minister), Edgar Ayales.

The payment of the wage increase to some 250.000 public sector employees, for the first semester of 2014 will cost ¢14 billion colones.

Despite the benefits, public employee sector unions are still calling a strike  on February 25 against the 0.43% increase.

“I understand that the benefits increase wages, but they are right we have been gaining slowly. We want increases and not adjustments. The minister now says he wants to negotiate a reform when there a only a few months before leaving office”, said Gilberto Cascante, head of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE), the largest of teachers union.

Albino Vargas, head of possibly the largest workers union (both private and public), the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (ANEP), says his union is fighting not for those with “dignified” wages, but for others like the medical profession, that does not.

For his part, Olman Segura, the ministro de Trabajo (Minister of Labour, who is set to leave office on May 8 to make way for a new government) blames the situation on the unions who, according to the minister, have not honoured “signed agreements”.

Source: La Nacion

Stay up to date with the latest stories by signing up to our newsletter, or following us on Facebook.