San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Request to raise fuel prices provokes sharp criticism

The National Oil Refinery (RECOPE) last Friday filed a petition to raise fuel prices that, if approved, would be the fourth increase this year.

The announcement came the same day that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, ruled in favor of a request from RECOPE employees asking that costs of benefits from their collective bargaining agreement be funded through fuel prices.

RECOPE’s request and the Sala IV’s ruling sparked a general rejection among business groups, political leaders and citizen groups who say it’s unfair to pay for benefits they consider excessive.

Sala IV’s ruling now offers the refinery the opportunity to file for another price hike request in the near future, as the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) last year prevented RECOPE from including employee benefits in its price-setting requests.

RECOPE’s newest petition is asking for increases of ₡84 in the per-liter price of super gasoline, of ₡76 for plus gasoline and of ₡70 for diesel.

If approved the per-liter price of super will exceed ₡600, rising from ₡518 to ₡602 ($0.95 to $1.10). Plus gasoline would go from ₡498 to ₡568 ($0.91 to $1.04) and diesel from ₡380 to ₡450 ($0.69 to $0.82).

RECOPE justified its request based on variations in international fuel prices and as compensation for changes in import costs recorded between March and April.

Challenges to the ruling

Sala IV in a news release on Tuesday reported that it admitted a complaint against its ruling filed by Libertarian Movement lawmaker Otto Guevara.

Guevara’s complaint argues that various articles of RECOPE’s collective agreement are unconstitutional, as they violate “principles of legality, reasonableness, proportionality and balance of its budget.”

The lawmaker also asked RECOPE’s executive president, Sara Salazar, to disclose the terms and costs of current negotiations with the workers’ union to update their collective agreement.

Citizen group Asociación de Consumidores de Costa Rica (Costa Rican Consumers Association) announced that it  will file another complaint before Sala IV next week.

The group said its complaint will ask justices to stand for consumers’ rights and rule that costs of a public service can not be used to finance collective agreements.

Christian Democratic Alliance legislator Mario Redondo on Monday said he will challenge the Sala IV’s ruling as he believes justices “made a mistake.”

Redondo said the ruling “is seriously hurting Ticos’ pockets” and claimed that “RECOPE’s collective agreement is one of the most abusive in the country.” The lawmaker has yet to announce when he will file the claim.

Protests against RECOPE’s request also came from the business sector.Franco Arturo Pacheco, president of Costa Rica’s Union of Private-Sector Chambers and Associations (UCCAEP), said earlier this week that it will submit another complaint before the Sala IV.

Pacheco said UCCAEP leaders and associates will file a complaint “against privileges enjoyed only by a small group of public employees and that are affecting Costa Rica’s competitiveness.”

Leaders of the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries (CICR), which brings together a large group of private sector companies, in a news release agreed with UCCAEP’s statements that Sala IV’s ruling will affect the country’s competitiveness.

CICR deputy director Carlos Montenegro said justices’ ruling left them speechless, adding that “it’s not fair that 4.8 million people and 41,000 companies that buy fuel are forced to pay for privileges of RECOPE’s 1,742 employees.”

A citizen iniciative called “Ya no más RECOPE” (No more RECOPE) is calling for a march against the refinery, scheduled at 9 a.m. on June 25 at La Sabana Park, west of downtown San José.

Demonstrators will march through the capital’s Second Avenue until reaching the Legislative Assembly, where group leaders will deliver lawmakers a petition to take action against RECOPE’s price hike request and its workers’ benefits.

The group on its Facebook profile said it’s up to the citizens to take actions to curb RECOPE’s abuses, as “President Luis Guillermo Solís has turned his back to the people.”

Members also claim it is unfair to fund extra-salary benefits that “allow RECOPE to pay their janitors and drivers monthly salaries up to ₡3 million ($5,500), while other workers barely make enough to survive.”

Controversial benefits

RECOPE’s workers union filed the complaint before Sala IV last year following an ARESEP ruling stating that costs for extra-salary benefits cannot be bundled into costs affecting the calculation of fuel prices.

According to the national budget, benefits of RECOPE’s collective agreement in 2015 represented expenses for ₡22,720 million ($41.5 million), or 20 percent of the agency’s operating costs.

The refinery has maintained that the terms of its collective agreement are confidential as they are currently under renegotiation, but various media outlets made several of them public.

Last year RECOPE granted its employees some twenty economic benefits and perks ranging from extra-salary bonuses to financial aid.

Among them employees receive bonuses for the birth of a child, for buying school supplies and for paying for day care services.

Despite having health coverage by the Social Security System, employees get bonuses to pay for private medical treatments, medicine and dental services.

The company also subsidizes employee’s meals at the cafeteria and the workers’ union gets funds to pay for social, sports and cultural activities and parties.

Those payments last year prompted President Luis Guillermo Solís to issue a directive banning all public agencies from using taxpayer funds to hold recreational events for their employees.

The presidential directive followed a wave of outrage on social media after RECOPE published a document seeking a ₡6.8 million ($12,600) public bid to organize a Christmas party for a group of its employees.

The most significant expenses are bonuses for every year of service, as well as others based on merit and work performance.

The cost of RECOPE’s collective agreement for 2016 is of ₡23,000 million ($41.9 million), according to the national budget.

Contact L. Arias at

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Organized crime at it’s best!

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Ken Morris

I’m starting to suspect that either Otto Guevara doesn’t understand his job or doesn’t like it very much.

This has to be about the zillionth case Guevara has taken either to the real court or the court of public opinion, and I have no problem with a citizen doing this. Sometimes I agree with him, other times I disagree, but I totally support a citizen’s right to do what he’s doing.

What I don’t understand is how these actions have any relationship to the job as legislator that Guevara was elected and is paid to do. The legislature proposes, debates, and passes laws. That’s just what the legislature does. It doesn’t run around filing court cases or giving media interviews that have no bearing on proposed laws.

When is the last time you read the phrase, “a bill proposed by Otto Guevara . . .”? I can’t remember ever reading it. The only times I’ve read about Guevara’s activities in the legislature they have involved him opposing or obstructing bills proposed by others.

If Guevara has such great ideas, why doesn’t he use his privileged position in the legislature to propose bills? Is it because he’s so out of step with his fellow legislators that he knows his bills will fail, or maybe that he prefers grandstanding over the legislative work he was elected and is paid to do?

I don’t mind what the guy is doing, but I do mind what he’s not doing. He’s taking a public salary to do one job while doing another job of his own design instead.

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Otto Guevara understands that his job as a politician in Costa Rica permits him to do as as he pleases, when dealing with corrupt organizations.

This is what is known as a “shakedown”.

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RECOPE, it’s executives and employees need to straighten out their act and be liable for paying back their wanton greed.
Constitutional court admits action against state refinery union contract

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court unexpectedly decided Tuesday to admit for consideration an action against the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A.

The action claiming unconstitutionality had only been presented the day before.

This is the action that challenges the contact between the state petroleum monopoly and its union, Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros, Químicos y Afines. The action asks the court to throw out many of the benefits provided employees.

The action was presented by Otto Guevara Guth, a lawmaker with the Movimiento Libertario.

In the summary of the case, the political party quoted Guevara saying that the state refinery is an absolutely inefficient firm. He said that union contract, called aconvención colectiva in Spanish is a piñata, best translated into English as something providing costly benefits.

The refinery is a politically sensitive state company like the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad with employees very conscious of their rights and benefits.

The Sala IV has been subjected to criticism over the weekend because it ruled that all the benefits paid to refinery employees can be calculated to be included in the price of motor fuel. The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Público sought to exclude the items.

That means motorists are paying the tab. According to Guevara, the union contract calls for:

-12 million colons a year to purchase medicines that are not available through the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social;

Tribunal Constitucional admite la acción contra el contrato de unión refinería estatal
Por el A.M. el personal de Costa Rica

La corte constitucional Sala IV decidió inesperadamente martes a admitir a la consideración de una acción en contra de la Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A.

La inconstitucionalidad reclamando acción sólo se había presentado el día anterior.

Esta es la acción que desafía el contacto entre el monopolio estatal del petróleo y su sindicato, el Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros, Químicos y Afines. La acción le pide al tribunal que tirar muchos de los beneficios proporcionados empleados.

La acción fue presentada por Otto Guevara Guth, un legislador con el Movimiento Libertario.

En el sumario del caso, el partido político citado Guevara diciendo que la refinería estatal es una empresa absolutamente ineficaz. Dijo que contrato de unión, llamada colectiva Convención en español es una piñata, mejor traducido al Inglés como algo que proporciona beneficios costosos.

La refinería es una empresa estatal políticamente sensibles como el Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad con empleados muy conscientes de sus derechos y beneficios.

La Sala IV ha sido objeto de críticas por el fin de semana, ya que dictaminó que todos los beneficios pagados a los empleados de la refinería se pueden calcular para ser incluido en el precio de los carburantes. La Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Público trató de excluir a los elementos.

Eso significa que los automovilistas están pagando la cuenta. Según Guevara, el contrato sindical exige:

-12 Millones de colones al año para la compra de medicamentos que no están disponibles a través de la Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social;
Decir pagos a los trabajadores para el cuidado de la salud ginecológica, atención prenatal y postnatal;

Decir pagos a los laboratorios privados para todos los trabajadores de sexo masculino para exámenes de la próstata;

-11.2 Millones de colones al año para las becas para los empleados y sus hijos;

pagos del entierro para los trabajadores, sus cónyuges, padres o hijos dependientes.

bono matrimonio -A y bonificaciones en el nacimiento de cada hijo.

-6.2 Millones de colones al año para el desarrollo social, unión, actividades deportivas y culturales para los trabajadores y sus familias, así como dinero para actividades de fin de año.

-A Pago de 650.000 colones al mes a cada trabajador para pagar la matrícula centro de cuidado infantil.

-A La transferencia de 5,6 millones de colones a la unión para pagar los útiles escolares para los hijos de los trabajadores.

Además, existe un fondo de ahorro, préstamos y vivienda a la que la empresa paga el 10 por ciento de los salarios mensuales totales.

Además de los pagos a los trabajadores, Guevara criticó la gestión de la empresa para gastar millones en la modernización de la refinería que se ha cerrado.

La refinería es, básicamente, un distribuidor de productos petrolíferos importados.

También citó el plan nefasto para construir una refinería en conjunción con los chinos en Moín. El acuerdo fue con la Sociedad Reconstructora Chino Costarricense y el costo

-Payments to workers for gynecological, prenatal and post-natal health care;

-Payments to private labs for all the male workers for prostate exams;

-11.2 million colons a year for scholarships for employees and their children;

-Burial payments for workers, their spouses, parents or dependent children.

-A marriage bonus and bonuses at the birth of each child.

-6.2 million colons each year for social, union, sports and cultural activities for workers and their families as well as money for end-of-year activities.

-A payment of 650,000 colons a month to each worker to pay for child care center enrollment.

-A transfer of 5.6 million colons to the union to pay for school supplies for workers’ children.

In addition, there is a fund for savings, loans and housing to which the company pays 10 percent of the total monthly salaries.

In addition to payments to workers, Guevara criticized the management of the company for spending millions in modernization of the refinery that has been closed.

The refinery is basically a distributor of imported petroleum products.

He also cited the ill-fated plan to build a refinery in conjunction with the Chinese in Moįn. The deal was with the Sociedad Reconstructora Chino Costarricense and cost

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