Next payday means more cash for private workers

Minimum wages went up Jan. 1, but most employees will not see the increase until payday at the end of this week. The increase is 3.17 percent over the salary paid in the last half of 2011.

The amount was set after negotiations between employer and employee groups before the Consejo Nacional de Salarios. The decree specifying the amount appeared in the La Gaceta official newspaper Dec. 8.

The pay increases involve only private employees. The salary scale for public employees is yet to be determined in most cases. However, the Poder Judicial has awarded some increases of as much as 14 percent. Among these is the job category to which taxes and fines are keyed, an auxiliar administrativo 1.

The Consejo Superior del Poder Judicial approved the increase, which took effect Jan. 1. The new base salary is 360,600 colons or about $714.77, up from 316,200 colons or about $626.76. Many laws cite this job category as the base for financial transactions. That is because historically the Costa Rican colon has been subject to inflation, so a specified amount would erode. This is the base salary to which traffic fines are keyed, for example. And it is the base salary to which the new tax on corporations is keyed.

A 14 percent pay raise represents a significant amount because the Poder Judicial also will have to pay the Christmas aguinaldo at that level. In addition, The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social takes a bite that costs employees 9 percent and employers 21 percent, although the percentage varies slightly based on the size of the firm or agency.

The government has been under criticism for not paying the amount it owed to the Caja. Union members at the Caja said the amount involved was enough to build a handful of hospitals.

The central government is clearing its debt, but it is paying the Caja in government bonds instead of cash.

Each private job category has its own minimum wage in Costa Rica. With the new pay scale, they range up from as little as 7,883.92 a day for the least qualified worker. That is about $15.63 at the current rate of exchange of 504.5 colons to the U.S. dollar.

That also is the pay of a salonero or waiter, but that person probably will share in tips.

Depending on the job, the salary may be expressed by the day or by the month. Those who pick coffee have a minimum based on the number of baskets they bring in. Another variable is education level. University grads are supposed to get 428,670.94 colons a month regardless of the job. That’s about $849.70.

Many workers here are paid the minimum.

The salaries here are in no way similar to those in the United States and Canada. For example, a Costa Rican carpenter has a minimum salary of 8,749.38 colons a day. A tractor-trailer driver gets 10,486.02 a day as a minimum.  That’s $20.79 and considerably lower than what the Teamster’s Union would consider a fair wage.

The full list of approved salaries is HERE! Another increase is likely July 1.

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