Does Costa Rica Have Labor Unions And Strikes?
Costa Rica has an extensive and comprehensive Labor Code covering almost all aspects of employment. The Labor Code protects the interests of employees and is practically more in favor of the workers than the employers are. The Labor Code covers salary, vacations, maternity leave, social security, insurance, Christmas Bonus, etc. In fact, the Labor Code goes a step further than most countries and releases a minimum-wages list for different industries and designations. This list is released twice a year. Employers face strict punitive action for violating the Labor Code. Therefore, there are hardly any strikes in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica National Labor Unions
However, Labor Unions have functioned legally in Costa Rica for quite some time. The four National Labor Organizations recognized in Costa Rica are:
Confederacion de Trabajadores Rerum Novarum (CTRN)
Confederacion de Trabajadores de Costa Rica (CTCR)
Central del Movimiento de Trabajadores Costarricenses (CMTC) and
Confederacion Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT).
The strong Labor Code has helped the Labor Unions develop a very strong influence in the public sector.
Past Strikes by Labor Unions
Strikes are overall rare in Costa Rica. The Labor Unions have set a strong precedent. One of the worst decades in terms of strikes was as far back as the 1990s. The Costa Rica Government had curbed privileges, benefits, etc. to public sector workers. The Costa Rica Government had faced a severe fiscal crisis in the 1990s. However, the Labor Unions were so strong that they took the case to the International Labor Organization. Labor problems have usually occurred more in the public sector than in the private sector in Costa Rica.
The Costa Rica Constitution also guarantees the Right of Association. This law allows employees to join any labor union without any permission from their employers. Though, Costa Rica watchers say restrictions exist in practice. Just about 15 percent of the work force - mainly from the public sector - is enlisted with the labor unions. Some labor unions also offer credit, savings, and other welfare plans in return for a pact to avoid strikes and other protests.
The Cafta Report
The Costa Rica Government has also taken elaborate steps to meet the obligations as listed in the Central American Free Trade Treaty (CAFTA). The Treaty covers the labor objectives outlined by the US Congress in the Trade Promotion Act of 2002 and makes certain standards obligatory. The Treaty lists a three-step approach to be adopted by member governments.
These steps are:
Ensuring effective enforcement of existing labor laws
Working with the International Labor Organization to improve existing labor laws and enforcement
Building local capacity to improve worker rights.
The Costa Rica Government has taken elaborate steps to protect the rights of employees within this framework. The Government has tried to set up training programs, check child labor, create awareness of employee rights, and maintain regular inspection of labor situations. The Costa Rica Government also ensures continuous interaction with labor leaders, employers, etc. to monitor and improve working conditions in the country.