San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public sector

Public worker unions announce strike in October, threaten media

Fabio Chaves, the leader of a coalition of seven public worker unions from the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), threatened reporters Tuesday to “abide by the consequences” of what they report about job perks and benefits received by public employees.

Chaves made his remarks at a news conference where he said public workers will stage a nationwide strike in October in order “to defend public employees and the negotiations that granted [our] benefits.”

Costa Rican media have published numerous reports in recent weeks about public workers’ salaries, special schedules, bonuses and other perks. Union leaders say these reports are intended to turn the population against them and even “criminalize them,” Chaves said.

Leaders of the Costa Rican Oil Refinery union (SITRAPEQUIA) and Atlantic Port Authority union (SINTRAJAP), the National Association of Public and Private Employees and the National Union of Nurses also said they will join the protest.

A date for the strike and public demonstration hasn’t been set but union leaders assured that it will take place.

“We’ve had it up to here with these disgusting campaigns against public workers. You [the press] will be responsible, as well as all those right-wing leaders, for whatever happens,” a visibly upset Chaves told reporters. He also reiterated his argument that most media are “criminalizing public employees and their fights for their rights.”

Following his remarks reporters asked Chaves to further explain his words. “You can interpret them as you want,” he said.

Chaves also said the media would be responsible if violent incidents were to occur during the public demonstration. “If we are attacked [by the media] we will respond, legally, but also on the streets,” he said.

Following the news conference SINTRAJAP’s Secretary General Ronaldo Blear and SITRAPEQUIA’s leader Manuel Rodríguez said they would not back any kind of aggression against members of the press.

Threats to reporters ‘unacceptable’

The Institute of Press and Freedom of Expression (IPLEX) condemned Chaves’ threats in a public statement, and said the union leader’s speech represented a clear, and unacceptable, message of intimidation.

IPLEX president Alejandro Delgado Faith said any call to violence against those who are doing their job to keep society informed cannot be tolerated.

“Anyone who feels our media are exceeding their duties should follow the appropriate procedures as stipulated by our legal system. Any other way is unacceptable and we know the Costa Rican people will not approve of it,” Delgado said.

The Costa Rican Journalists’ Association also voiced its disapproval of Chaves’ words. In a public statement, the association’s president Marlon Mora Jiménez said the group didn’t want to imagine a scenario where reporters here feel insecure or afraid to do their job.

“We don’t want to witness any attacks on our colleagues by a mob emboldened by the incendiary language of a union leader,” Mora said.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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