San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Teachers reject pay deal; education minister says get back to work

Education Minister Sonia Marta Mora on Wednesday evening said the government will no longer negotiate with unions until teachers return to the classrooms.

“You must return to work,” Marta said, addressing an ongoing teachers’ strike that has lasted just short of four weeks. “We will now deduct wages from those who fail to do so, starting on Monday.”

The minister spoke at a press conference at Casa Presidencial along with Labor Minister Víctor Morales, who did not respond when asked about the possibility of declaring the strike illegal, a necessary step in order for the administration to deduct wages.

Mora’s remarks followed yet another failed attempt by the government of President Luis Guillermo Solís, who took office on May 8, to negotiate an end to the strike, which was prompted by a backlog of teachers’ pay for several months. Teachers began the nationwide strike on May 5.

The latest meeting between administration officials and union leaders was held Tuesday, and lasted 11 hours into early Wednesday. An agreement that came out of that meeting was presented Wednesday morning to teachers from all seven provinces, who voted to reject the proposal. On Thursday, Radio ADN reported that some union leaders knew teachers would reject the agreement even before it was presented.

Teachers cited the lack of a deadline for Education Ministry (MEP) officials to settle all back pay pay, and they were skeptical about the government’s proposed payment procedures.

Mora added that Thursday and Friday will be the last days for teachers to file complaints about salary errors, and sanctions would be handed out starting Monday to those who continued striking.

Ana Doris González, president of the High School Teachers Association, responded to the minister’s comments by saying that “teachers will not return to work until all back pay is issued.”

Mora said she was surprised by the teachers’ vote to reject the proposal, which was the result of a compromise between unions and the Solís administration.

Gilberto Cascante, president of the National Association of Educators, asked members in a public statement “to stand firm and not be intimidated by government repression.”

On Thursday morning, Solís said “the continuation or worsening of the strike is not the government’s responsibility, and we will not tolerate it anymore. We have the responsibility to maintain labor conditions for teachers, but we also must protect the students’ rights.”

Solís said he is aware that many educators have returned to work, and he believes union leaders have an agenda that includes stirring up trouble in the streets.

At noon on Thursday, union leaders used social media to call a meeting on Saturday at 9 a.m. to determine further action.

Recommended: Does anyone smell a rat? On Dead Mice and Men (and Women) in Costa Rica’s teacher strike

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Ken Morris

Yesterday another task prevented me from posting the prediction that if the teachers aren’t back to work by Monday, public sentiment will turn against them, as it probably should.

I agree with the teachers, and further agree with the post saying that Solís should personally sit down and write the checks himself if there is no other way. However, plainly the MEP is in such disarray that this can’t be done, and just as plainly the teachers have made their point. It’s therefore time for the unions to call off the strike, perhaps with the understanding that the strike will resume in a reasonable amount of time (say two weeks) if the MEP still hasn’t corrected the problem by then.

Basically, at this point the government appears to be showing a good faith effort, while the unions aren’t. I think the unions prolong this strike at their peril. Now they still have public support; by Monday I bet they won’t.

Additionally, the teachers may be hurting themselves in other ways. I talked with a striking teacher yesterday who canceled a planned trip over the upcoming break since she fears she may have to work then. Extra work days to compensate for the strike may not be required, depending upon the final resolution, but it’s enough of a possibility for teachers to remain uncertain about their upcoming work schedule.

Let’s all continue to side with the teachers and not allow the MEP to return to irresponsible business as usual, but let’s also agree that it’s time to get the kids back in school. The teachers have made their point, and it’s one we should all continue to support, but in the meantime the teachers (at least the vast majority who have been paid) should go back to work.

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The previous administration caused this problem, they did not pay and left a financial mess to be dealt with. Go back to work in good faith, your hurting the children, and yourselves. Your responsibility is to teach and care for the kids. Do it.

Almost a month on strike, you should NOT receive back pay. The system is broke, and your on vacation. Where is the spirit of good faith and co-operation on the part of the teachers? I see none.

Yes the former President should have paid you. Sorry about that, she failed you. Now lets move forward to solve the problems, go teach…you will be paid when you do and in good time. Do not cause more problems…solve them.

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Don Blake

You have had a pay rise….I haven’t had one for two years… get back to work!!!……don’t listen to your stupid trade union….they will still have their jobs when you all get fired for breaking your contract of duty!…….sack them all and bring in teachers from poorer Central American countries like Nicaragua. …..they will work harder, teach better, and won’t go on strike!!!!

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I am a retired Northamericano now living in Costa Rica. I was an independent labor contract negotiator for many years and negotiated contracts representing both the teacher’s union and school management.
The issue of lack of pay for some of the teachers here is a total embarrassment for Costa Rica.
Not knowing all the facts or all thy applicable laws, I would comment as follows:
1. If there is money to pay, then payment should be made immediately including appropriate interest. This should happen, even if President Solis needs to sit down and hand write checks himself,
2. If there were insufficient funds, then Former Education Minister Leonardo Garnier should have met with the union officials to see if an agreement could be reached for keeping schools open and reaching a binding agreement on when and how the payments would be made. Lacking agreement, the schools should have been shut down until funds were available.
3. Any law or policy that allows Union members to strike for a prolonged period of time without the penalty of loss of pay is obviously favoring the Union and not the management. It the teachers want to strike in sympathy, it is their right. However, a prolonged strike should be without pay, otherwise the unions have an unfair balance of power.
4. When the matter is resolved, if the teachers are required to work extra days to make up for the lost school days to students, then the appropriate pay should be provided.
The continuation of the nonpayment with the expectation of schools continuing to function is WRONG and not only creates thoughts of criminal intent from the President Laura Chinchilla cabinet, but is a terrible embarrassment and distraction for new President Solis.

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I tend to agree with Bob here: If the teachers are not going to be given their back-pay immediately (assuming there are the funds in the Govt’s bank to do so) or if not I have to agree with the unpaid teachers in refusing to work until restitution is made and they are paid, as they should have been, manually if by no other means since the new program that was set up to do that is obviously not working.

It’s quite simple: To my way of thinking, words aren’t cash and won’t pay the teachers’ bills. Were I in the teachers’ shoes I would not return to the classromm until I had been paid.

The CR Govt is stalling, for whatever the true reason in and that shows a lack of good faith on its part.

Solís sure has a huge mess to clean up in this situation and I hope he is able that to in very short order!

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Matthew Frederick

Great another selfish protect, lets shut down San Jose, with NO regard for other people and their work and what they have to get done day to day, I really wish Tico’s would learn to protest better instead of pissing off everyone else around them with no respect for anyone else by shutting down entire major roads and other things.

Go protest infront of government buildings, houses and other things like that. If you want my support, do not prevent me from doing what i need to do.

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This is what you elected Ticos. Disfrutarlo

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Matthew Frederick

Um ya, that is trying to clean up from PLN……

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A fight is going to happen the goverment is taking to hard of a line with the Unions. I hear that teachers are raedy to close San Jose down if needed. I understand the teachers pay us all then we go back to work. I am surprised that goverment is taking such a hard line considering 1500 teachers still have not recieved a penny in pay for 3 months.

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