Avenida Segunda in downtown San José is again battle ground for unions and public sector workers against the government. The strike action today is in protest of the 0.43% wage increase imposed by the government for the first half of the year.
The wage increase was by executive order, an amount far short of the almost 3.62% demanded by the unions.
The protest march will leave the Parque La Merced at 10am and make its way to the Ministerio de Hacienda (Ministry of Finance) several blocks to the east.
The Minister of Labour, Olman Segura, says the strike today demonstrates the disinterest by the unions to negotiate a new formula to set salary increases.
The major force in today’s strike are workers of the Ministry of Education (MEP) and the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE). Other public sector workers will be joining the protest.
Although the wage increase was only 0.43%, when taking into account bonuses paid to public sector employes, they earn between 23% and 50% more than their counterparts in the public sector. The difference reflects the fact that public employees are paid 14 annual installments (on average) and incentive pay and occupational hazards pay.
“I understand that the bonuses raise wages , but these things have been won slowly and are rights. We want wage increases and not adjustments”, says Gilbert Cascante, head of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE) – National Association of Educators.
The Minister of Education Leonardo Garnier says that the movement lacks justification.
“Never have we had such an increase in the education budget. Teacher salaries have grown 154%. To call a strike on the grounds of mistreated wages, is a contradiction”, said Garnier.
On Monday, presidential candidate Johnny Araya, met with union leaders. Araya said that it is necessary to open talks to define a new wage forumla for the public sector.