Costa Rica’s President Luis Guillermo Solís on Wednesday denied that he or anyone else from his administration had previously reached an agreement with public unions over a national strike held last Monday.
The president was prompted to make the statement following a slew of rumors circulated by leaders of the political opposition, on social media and in opinion columns, alleging that Monday’s strike was staged by Solís and leaders of Patria Justa, a collective of public-sector unions.
At a public event on Wednesday, Solís said that some of the agreements with union leaders were reached because of prior negotiations aimed at preventing the strike. He adamantly rejected rumors that his administration had promoted the strike during those meetings as a publicity stunt.
“Only a very vivid imagination would think that a responsible administration – mine – would plot with unions to stage a strike than could have serious consequences for our national production and citizen peace,” Solís said.
The president posted a video message on Casa Presidencial’s website and on social media downplaying the strike’s results, saying it failed to have the impact that unions had promised “because it was unjustified.”
In a news release, Patria Justa also denied any agreement with the executive branch.
“We radically reject the vile and despicable attack on the transparency of our protest,” the group stated.
Patria Justa is an umbrella group of unions from the National Association of Public and Private Employees, the Costa Rican Oil Refinery, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute, the Atlantic Port Authority and municipalities.
Negotiations between union leaders and government officials started Monday afternoon and lasted over 10 hours. Following the agreement, the parties signed a document in which unions agreed to lift the strike under the government’s promise to address their demands.
The agreement received strong criticism from lawmakers and other political party members – including Ottón Solís, the founder of the ruling Citizen Action Party, who said it was a step back for the government.
Among the agreements by executive branch officials is a promise to file an appeal against a Public Services Regulatory Authority decision that forbids the Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE) from including costs for extra salary benefits in fuel price increase requests.
In its price increase requests, RECOPE includes expenses for covering collective agreement benefits for employees ranging from funds for loans, daily food subsidies, school supplies, parties and scholarships for workers’ children, among others.
The government pledged to reevaluate collective agreements for other public agencies and to submit to the Legislative Assembly by Dec. 1 a bill to set minimum wages to equate private-sector salaries with those from the public sector.
Officials also promised to promote the participation of union leaders in discussions to amend the pension system of the Social Security System.
Watch President Solís’ message: