As the teachers’ strike entered its third week and a possible general strike loomed, Education Minister Sonia Mora announced an agreement with the Costa Rican Banking Association (ABC) to pay thousands of teachers back pay dating six months in some cases.
The agreement also set rules for educators in arrears to avoid defaulting or damaging their credit because of the Education Ministry’s inability to pay them.
During a press conference at Casa Presidencial Tuesday afternoon, the minister stressed that the payment system was not a loan or a credit. Teachers who present a certificate from the Education Ministry, which will start issuing them Wednesday, along with their national identification and debit card for their account will receive their back pay next week starting Monday, May 26.
Mora estimated that no more than 3,000 – roughly 2 percent of the total number of public school teachers – had yet to be paid since the Education Ministry implemented a new payment system under ex-President Laura Chinchilla’s government.
Some 13,600 educators are owed back pay in varying amounts.
Mario Gómez, an ABC representative, said that teachers who found themselves behind on loan payments because of the ministry’s inability to pay them would not face delinquency fees.
Mora repeated President Luis Guillermo Solís’ call for teachers to return to the classroom.
“The president has been very clear about this. We are obligated as the government to meet the rights of many. None outweigh those of another,” she said, “But we also have to guarantee children’s right to education.”
She added that 675,000 students rely on public schools for daily meals.
Solís acknowledged that the government needed to work to regain the trust of unions, but he pointed out that organized labor should also change its tone toward his administration, which took office on May 8.
Several other national labor organizations have pledged to join the teachers in the streets Friday if the government and the educators’ unions cannot come to an agreement. Presidency Minister Melvin Jiménez would not comment on the government’s position about a possible general strike, saying that the Solís administration was doing everything it could to resolve the strike called by National Association of Educators, APSE, the high school teachers’ union, and the Costa Rican Education Union.
Mora and Labor Minister Victor Morales are set to meet with unions leaders Tuesday afternoon at 4:30.