ITUC OnLine – April 16, 2007

Brussels, 16 April 2007 (ITUC OnLine): In Costa Rica trade unionists are dismissed, intimated and harassed and workers are strongly discouraged from even joining a trade union, states a new ITUC report on core labour standards in Costa Rica. The report is being released today to coincide with Costa Rica’s trade policy review at the WTO on 16 and 18 April.

The report points to ineffective legal protection for trade unionists, such that the provisions against anti-union discrimination in ILO Conventions are voided of their content. In the private sector, trade unions have been progressively replaced by the so-called “Solidarismo”

associations set up by the employers. “It is striking to note that trade unions are almost non-existent in export processing zones (EPZ) and maquilas. It appears that Costa Rica has taken a decision to seek competitiveness on world markets by suppressing the fundamental rights of workers to organise,” stated Guy Ryder, ITUC General Secretary.

The report further shows that collective bargaining is under serious threat. Workers from many public bodies, institutions and enterprises are not allowed to bargain collectively, which is in contradiction with fundamental ILO Conventions. If workers from the public sector do manage to sign collective agreements, these stand every chance of being declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. Indeed the report finds that over the last two years, on 16 occasions clauses of collective agreements were annulled on the grounds that the benefits envisaged in the clauses were “disproportionate and irrational”.

“This is a tremendously serious violation of the right to bargain collectively which until now the government has failed to address in any satisfactory way” concluded Ryder. “The government is clearly taking the wrong path for the country’s development.”

The reports further notes that governmental efforts in the fight against discrimination in remuneration may have yielded some positive results but that much work remains to be done, particularly with regard to women migrant workers who are often suffer serious discrimination.

Finally the report notes that despite some governmental efforts, there remain over 100,000 children aged 5 to 17 working instead of attending school.

Click here to download the report.