Everybody Out! National Strike in Costa Rica.

Huelga-de-trabajadores-del-sector-público.-Cortesía

The fiscal deficit in Costa Rica has finally emerged from the closet after years of immurement. The previous government tried to take measures to resolve the problem but, having no majority in the National Assembly, could not get its legislation passed.

The new government…a sort of shabby rethink of the Ministry of All the Talents…has half a chance, as even the blowhard opponents of reform in the previous National Assembly feel the hot breath of the financiers on their backs and worry about a reduction in their personal wealth.

Accordingly measures have been proposed to impose tax on the proceeds of property rental – collapse of stout rentiers – the replacement of sales tax by Value Added Tax on both goods and services – collapse of stout lawyers and dentists – and a measure which was probably proposed by those holding crucifixes and garlic as a prophylactic – the removal of some of the privileges enjoyed by public service workers above and beyond those enjoyed by those in the private sector.

No one has suggested looking closely at the tax efficient co operative status of big firms which are co operative only in name, like Dos Pinos whose dairy products sell in Costa Rica for double the price that they command in, for example, Panama…

No one has suggested having a blitz on big firms who pay little or no tax until Hacienda – the Tax Man – gently suggests that they might like an amnesty by which they pay about twenty per cent of what is owed…..

No one has suggested having a look at the agricultural subsidies which keep the big rice producers in the pink – including the ex President who expanded the public sector enormously in order to  bolster his party’s power base – while abstracting water from the surrounding population…

Which is why most of the members of the National Assembly are in favour of the reforms as they do not touch their precious pocket books.

The public service unions, however, are distinctly unchuffed by the proposals.

They are quite attached to their bonuses for turning up to work on time, for maintaining confidentiality, for not taking a second job in their spare time, for having the government pay for professional education for which they receive a further bonus once the course is completed, receiving aid to educate their children, having their car, their mobile .phone and their food in working hours paid for from public funds and any number of other odds and ends, depending on which public body employs them.

People in general are demanding an end to institutionalised profiteering from the public purse….in particular calling for a halt to the ‘luxury pensions’ by which university professors, judges, top staff of the state banks and other institutions receive enormous monthly  sums on their retirement, regardless of whether or not they have made full payments to the appropriate pension schemes.

Oddly enough, while the government has proposed some modifications in this respect neither members of the National Assembly nor the union bosses are very interested as both groups look forward to receiving such pensions….one union boss retiring and taking his monster pension the day before calling his members out on strike.

For those accustomed to the British way of striking….Grunwick, Wapping, Orgreave,

orgreave

a national strike in Costa Rica is like a walk in the park…which generally it is, as in the capital, San Jose, the marches start at the Parque Merced

huelga parque merced

then proceed along Avenida Secunda – the main traffic artery of the capital – past the central park, then uphill to the national park by the National Assembly which they picket assiduously while the fat cats within vote through the legislation.

huelga

It has all been relatively peaceful…on hearing of the strike, trained as we were in France, we shot out to fill up the car, buy gas tanks and stock up on animal feed….but within days the blockades on the refineries had stopped and supplies were getting through…

The unions have blocked roads…but not for long….the President was jostled as he left the Teatro Nacional…Costa Rican Presidents don’t have  much by way of bodyguards…but the legislation has rolled inexorably through the National Assembly and will shortly be presented to the Constitutional Court.

Here, however, it might meet an obstacle more effective than the unions….

Judges and many of the staff of the Justice Ministry have the union perks…and the luxury pensions. They are not at all eager to see these go up in smoke.

Already some self righteous spokesperson has warned that if the judges are deprived of their perks they may feel obliged to accept bribes…

As a friend said…what, then is obliging them to do so at the moment and what would be the difference?

Feeling that this approach is not receiving good publicity the judges have now announced that, given the separation of powers under the constitution, the justice ministry is self governing and so can decide for itself on the terms of employment of its members…..

While I am not aware that ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is required reading for employees of the justice ministry that pronouncement could have come straight from the lips of Humpty Dumpty.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

And just in case, the presiding judge of the constitutional court has declared that as the proposed legislation involves changes to labour contracts, he is not at all sure that his court is legally able to hear arguments ….

Strikes here are completely different beasts to those in the U.K.

Until a strike is declared illegal by the courts strikers continue to be paid. When their strike is declared illegal they have three days in which to appeal, or to return to work. The norm is for them to return to work, under the cover of an agreement with their employers that they will not suffer any financial liability for going out on strike illegally. In the U.K. the union pays its members….

The police, while being unable to strike, have a great deal of sympathy with the strikers…having similar perks to defend…unlike the police in England who were paid double time to break the strikers….so violence is rare.

But there are similarities with the U.K. too…the fat cats look after their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Everybody Out! National Strike in Costa Rica.”

  1. Tsk! What Costa Rica requires is a stable, strong moral government that seeks what is best for the nation and does not put selfish interests before the needs of the people.
    Possibly the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ would offer a good example of how to deal with such situations…

    What?…oh!

    1. Things have been out of hand for decades….a group of monopolists run the commerce of the nation to their own advantage while bureaucrats sit pretty on overblown salaries and benefits…

    1. There isn’t…there hasn’t been for years.
      The public sector was vasty expanded in the first Presidency of Oscar Arias in order to create votes for his political party…which worked for decades. The oligarchs have always gone untouched….most of whom are involved with the same party.
      The last president attempted to clean things up but was opposed by the National Assembly where he did not have a majority…the current one has lumbered himself with members of Arias’ party who have no interest in upsetting the status quo, so seek other means of raising taxes…as usual off the backs of those without political clout.

  2. Sorry it’s come to this. If it’s any consolation Costa Rica does not have a monopoly on bad government. Just look at the mess in the US these days. Power hungry, vile self-interests are an anathema to democracy everywhere. When did it become so fashionable for the despicable to push the boundaries of decency when governing?

    1. Same in the U.K….robbing the public purse to feed the greed of private enterprise, which is no longer enterprising as it does not have to be to survive.
      It was never acceptable, but those who object no longer have a voice – and if they did, those in power have cloth ears.

  3. Indeed, fat cats look after their own. That seems to be the general rule whatever shade of political opinion is in government. It’s just the same in the UK. Fat pensions for public servants, massive tax avoidance by big companies, tax breaks for the wealthy etc. A shame striking isn’t more effective in Costa Rica. Strikes are becoming more common here. Over 8,000 women council workers are striking in Glasgow today in what is thought to be the biggest equal pay strike ever in the UK.

    1. Yes, i saw the reports of the strike in Glasgow….and to think that we had the Equal Pay Act as long ago as 1970….
      The problem with strikes here is that the general population see the unions as being part of the privileged set up in society…as the unions do nothing for private sector workers, just as in France.

  4. The deputies know where their interests lie…and that is not generally with he mass of the people…
    There are some very shady dealings which have been uncovered by the replacement Chief Prosecutor, but how far she will be allowed to go will be interesting to see.

  5. Fascinating – and of course interesting to contrast with the UK where, generally, I suspect people have an over-inflated sense of their own importance, morality and purpose of the institutions they represent. Over-paid executives, anachronistic trades unions (particularly the one that cancelled my train the other day), public institutions that don’t actually serve the public… Anyone like to start again?

    1. Society in general doesn’t seem to be fit for purpose…if that purpose is to give everyone the best chance to make what they can of themselves while not exploiting others.
      What happened to the post war settlement….which greedy buggers chucked that away for pelf?

  6. Yet another bunch of sickening corrupt parasites. What a shame a few spoil everything for everyone else. It’s the same the world over too.

    1. Isn’t it just…..makes the blood boil.
      Especially as I wanted to make my tax declaration last week only to find that the computer had had a hisssy fit because I had changed my residence status and so could not find me in its whatever it is…..though my residence number remained the same…
      Now they want to fine me for a late declaration…..fat chance.

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