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Costa Rica limits the right to strike and prohibits it in essential services

January 20, 2020

The President of Costa Rica, Carlos Alvarado, approved on Monday a law passed by the Legislative Assembly that sets limits on the right to strike and prohibits it in public services that are considered essential.

The initiative arose in response to a strike by public sector unions that in 2018 paralyzed much of the education, health and fuel distribution services for three months.

“Costa Rica spent a lot of time in an environment of uncertainty and chaos in the matter of strikes,” said opposition deputy Carlos Ricardo Benavides, proponent of the initiative, at the law signing ceremony.

He added that in 2018, “rather than enshrining a right, enormous impunity was generated for a group that abused the majority, trampling their rights to health and education, among others.”

The rule declares illegal strikes in public services considered essential, such as health, safety and energy distribution, while suspending the payment of the wages of striking workers if a judge declares a work stoppage illegal.

It also sets limits on the duration of strikes in the education sector to prevent students from running out of lessons indefinitely.

The new law “comes to give legal certainty to all people … [and] there are now clearer rules” for strikes, said President Alvarado.

Union leader Albino Vargas described the norm as a “gag and anti-strike law” which in his opinion was passed “in an accelerated and not very transparent manner.”

“There will be no law to stop the fight for social justice if these struggles are fair,” Vargas said in a video released by the National Association of Public and Private Employees.

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