The national strike, now in its 31 day, may be coming to a close with the ruling on Tuesday by the Juzgado de Trabajo de Goicoechea declaring the strike by public school teachers illegal.

The decision by judge Francisco Quesada was made known at 10:50 am Tuesday morning.

In the ruling, the court declared strike action by the public school teachers illegal the strike against the Ministry of Education (MEP), because it was not a peaceful movement.

In his ruling, Quesada wrote, “Regarding the actions of trade unions, including the contradictory of the present case, which participated – collectively – of the demonstrations that led to total blockades of many national communication channels (major roads), it must be indicated that their actions are reprehensible and that cannot be considered as a peaceful movement. In addition, as it was touched in the initial part of this ruling, apart from the evidence in the case, that action is a notorious fact, of collective transcendence, in which the right to free transit was totally violated.”

The judge added that “(…) given that although demonstrations are the living expression of the strike movement, they must not exceed the limits of rationality and proportionality of the action of any guild.”

The judge also ordered the Sindicato de Educadores Costarricenses (SEC), the Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE), and the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza (APSE) are ordered to pay ¢1 million colones for procedural costs and ¢5 million for legal costs.

Following the ruling, MEP officials called on the more than 23,000 striking teachers to return to the classroom.

“From the MEP we call all the teaching staff, administrative, janitors, cooks and guards to resume their work immediately to reactivate the school year 2018,” said the Ministry of Education this morning through social networks.

Unions defiant of ruling
However, the union leadership does not see why teachers must return to work just yet, given that the 24-hour’ return to work’ rule doesn’t apply until the court decision is firm meaning it has gone through the processes of notifications and appeals, a process that mostly like will take weeks.

Roblin Apú, head of the APSE was the first to publicly state the union will appeal the decision of the Labor Court.

Gilberto Cascante of the ANDE called on his membership to “stay calm”.

“The fact that we get the sentence of illegality is only in the first instance,” he said through his Facebook account.

MEP will look to recover wages paid to MEP workers
For its part, the Minister of Education, Edgar Mora, took a tough stand, saying the MEP will look to recover the ¢90 billion colones (¢3 billion a day) it has paid in wages to striking workers once the illegality issue is resolved.

“The figure is not trivial, the figure of this badly spent investment is about ¢ 90,000 million or more. It is almost a quarter of what the country expects to recover with the fiscal plan, it is a very high figure that must be recovered by the State (…),” Mora said in a statement.

According to the minister, the MEP will proceed with the corresponding reduction in pay because that would imply covering of “immunity and impunity” the expenses made this month in payments to the workers.

The MEP minister’s stand is contrary to the CCSS and MAG that in the last week signed an agreement with their respective trade unions, guaranteeing returning workers would not face reprisals and the question of reduction of wages is a “we will see”.

The nations strike began on September 10 and this Monday it entered its fifth week. Since then, two salary payments have been made, the 15th and 20th of September, deposited directly into the accounts of all employees, striking or not.

Students are the real victims
In the case of the MEP, as of today, 52% of the schools across the country remain closed, while the rest have been affected in some way.

Mora appealed to the “intelligence” and “will to work” of each worker of the MEP.

“We hope that each one will reflect with caution about the need to return to work (…) that is in the place where you will be safe with your students in the classroom, the kitchen for the cooks, the offices for the administrative staff. The risk of not doing so is exponential,” Mora added.

The minister emphasized that for the students, the lost lessons are irrecoverable, and acknowledged that there will be no remedial plans that can cover the lost time.

The minister added that the victims are the students, who will feel the consequences of the lost lessons because of the strike movement. “I call on teachers to present themselves without delay to their jobs,” he insisted.