San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Laura Chinchilla not willing to discuss salary raise

President Laura Chinchilla rejected the possibility of increasing public employees’ salary raises after thousands of them rallied at Casa Presidencial Wednesday morning to protest the government’s decree to raise salaries by only ₡5,000 ($10) a month.

The protesters, who joined a one-day strike called by public sector unions, covered a large portion of Avenida 2 in San José on their march between the Finance Ministry and Casa Presidencial in the southeastern district of Zapote.

Slogans taken up during the march included “Aumentos = limosnas” (“Raises = cbarity”) and “Ni un paso atrás” (“Not one step back”).

Among other lawmakers, Claudio Monge of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) joined the protest, calling the raise decree “an offense that undermined the country’s labor laws.”

Chinchilla said she regretted workers’ attitudes toward a problem that “does not justify crippling essential services for the people.” Officials have stated the government is open to negotiate with union representatives but maintains it will not further raise salaries.

The movement included government employees, teachers and public health, port and telecommunications workers, among others, although work stoppages were only partial, government officials said.

The unions rejected the government’s decision to unilaterally determine the amount of public employees’ salary increases, after a failed negotiation attempt in January.

Finance Ministry officials argued that under current conditions, “with a fiscal deficit of almost 5 percent of gross domestic product, it is not possible to provide a higher raise without causing a greater imbalance in public finances.”

Police barriers blocked access to Casa Presidencial, to protesters’ agitation, but no major incidents were reported.

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