San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
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President Solís signs decree banning strikes in essential services

President Luis Guillermo Solís signed an executive decree Thursday that reiterates his government’s pledge to maintain essential services, including police and hospitals, and establish protocols to guarantee that these and other public services are not interrupted by labor disputes.

Solís told reporters at Casa Presidencial that he would sign Thursday’s decree after lifting former President Laura Chinchilla’s (2010-2014) veto on a controversial labor reform bill on Dec. 12. The decree takes effect Thursday through the next 18 months until the Reforms of Labor Procedures Bill becomes law in May 2016.

“This is to tell the people, investors, workers, that we believe that the government should guarantee continuity in public services, in these activities we have defined as essential,” Labor Minister Victor Morales said during a press conference Thursday.

The decree’s language defines “essential services” as those that would endanger “rights to life, health and public security,” which included, hospital, emergency and police services as well as port operations, telecommunications, water, energy and the transportation of patients.

President Solís said he did not agree with the labor reform law’s language that would allow for strikes in essential services, which prompted his decision to issue the decree. Morales clarified that the labor reform law permits regulated strikes in public services but that some services, like police, should have an absolute prohibition on strikes. The labor minister said that the Solís administration hoped the legislature would amend the law’s language to reflect the decree’s intention during the coming year.

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I’ve commented on the issue of strikes and labor relations on this site before and do so again.
The prohibition of strikes for essential services is the right move provided there is an alternative method to resolve disputes.
The alternative method should be arbitration.
I have participated in hundreds of labor related arbitration.
I believe the best is a single, well established arbitrator, not a tri-party arbitration process. A tri-party process keeps the issues in the area of negotiations.
The arbiter’s decision should be final and binding. The arbitrator should be limited to selecting one of the party’s final proposal on the unresolved issue(s), and not be able to create an independent decision. This method insures that the parties will be as close as possible to the resolution because a radical stand would, obviously, lose.
Not all employees of the police, hospital, etc. should be considered essential.
For example, janitorial staff may be essential in hospitals that remain open; janitorial staff at the police stations may not be essential.
The related costs for the arbitration process should be split between the union and the employer.

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The essential designation should come with extra compensation in lieu of work stoppage right denial, as well as other avenues of legal protest.
This should be a universal human right.

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