San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Low-Level Public Workers Get Unexpected Raise

IN a stated effort to bridge the gapbetween rich and poor, and in an apparentresponse to the ongoing strike of NationalWater and Sewer Institute (AyA) employees,the government announced a 9.81%wage increase Tuesday for the lowestpaid workers in the public sector.The raise will go into effect immediatelyfor more than 31,000 carpenters, guards,drivers, secretaries, masons and other low levelworkers, President Abel Pachecoannounced during the press conference followinghis weekly Cabinet meeting.“We are looking for equilibrium andequality,” particularly in comparison tothe private sector, Labor MinisterFernando Trejos said.This is precisely the request of AyAworkers, who have been on strike for nearlyfour weeks. However, they have rejectedthe offer of a 9.81% increase, saying it isnot enough, the daily La Nación reported.Trejos said the government is appealinga labor court’s decision last week thatthe strike is legal (TT, Oct. 28).The 9.81% increase – which amountsto ¢14.856 ($30.38) – ¢19.933 ($40.76) permonth – is in addition to the two normalincreases the country’s approximately157,000 public employees receive per year.The Pacheco administration has previouslysaid it does not have the funds toincrease public salaries beyond the raisesheavily negotiated twice a year.New Finance Minister David Fuentessaid the salary increase will cost the government¢400 million ($818,000) and willcome from the budgets of the public institutionswhere the workers are employed.If those institutions cannot pay the newsalaries, the 2006 budget will account forthem, he said, adding that the paymentswill be retroactive to Nov. 1.

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