An automatic wage reduction for those on strike, as well as the prohibition of protest for all essential services – such as health and safety – deprive traditional trade unionism in Costa Rica of their main weapons.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, president of the Legislative Assembly, is one of the great defenders of the “strike bill”

The country’s workers’ unions are obliged to rethink this dilemma through tools such as lobbying in Congress and the creation of political leaders to defend their interests. Another way for the unions to face the storm is by transforming into groups similar to solidarity associations.

The threat faced by the unions follows from a Constitutional Court (Sala IV) ruling on Friday regarding the legislation that would regulate strikes in the country.

So far, trade union leaders have shown a calm response to the resolution and that the right to strike will not be affected as they prepare to accuse the country before the United Nations (UN) and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The legislative bill must again be approved in the first debate because the Sala IV determined that the bill had a couple of errors, but advocates, including the president of the Legislative Assembly, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, point out that they are easily remedied since basically it is about eliminating a couple of articles.

One of those articles suspends the employment contracts of employees who participate in strikes; consequently, said workers will not be obliged to provide their services, but neither should the employer pay their salaries.

Salary reduction is already implemented in countries of the region such as Panama, Chile, and Peru; therefore, it has the backing of the ILO. Salary reductions are also applied in European countries such as Spain, Italy and France.

The new law would establish that the salary can be recovered for the days not worked, but it will require that a Labor Court determine that the reasons for the strike are attributable to the employer, a process that would take about two months.

Different visions

The productive sector and legislators of various political parties highlight that the “strike bill”  defines new rules around protests, avoiding abuse, while trade unions stress that nothing will stop the strikes.