Striking teachers irked because education minister ducked meetin

Teacher strikes enter into a fourth week today as the Costa Rican government still has failed to pay all missing wages. The announcement to continue striking came from union leaders after a Friday meeting with Ministry of Educación Pública representatives. Sonia Marta Mora Escalante, the minister, did not attend.

The teacher unions were expecting to issue a proposal with a list of scheduled demands and commitments. However, representatives from the Asociación Nacional de Educadores said they would not hand over the document because they wanted to talk directly to Ms. Mora. The association made a statement saying that Ms. Mora has full power in resolving this issue and that the vice ministers who attended the meeting instead have not been involved since the beginning of the strike.

Contained in the pending document is the demand for full reimbursement of lost payments from April and early May, on top of the normal pay for their biweekly check due today.

Another requirement under the union proposal is the creation of a commission that ensures all payments are made and analyzes the root problems with Integra2, the new government payroll software that generated this conflict. The document further demands that the government conduct a full investigation and report on the faulty pay system by Aug. 30.

Last Tuesday, educators’ association representative Ana Magaly Mora Rodriguez said that more than 13,000 teachers were still awaiting full compensation even after the state had its bank association supply payments to faculty who had yet to receive any of their paychecks.

Leaders from the educators association have said that they will consider a halt in striking only when all teachers are paid in full.

Friday thousands marched along Avenida Segunda, marking the largest demonstration since strikes began three weeks ago. A variety of groups walked side by side with the teachers to lend their support as family members, students, and medical workers joined the march.

The Universidad de Costa Rica’s student federation was represented in the protesting crowd that stopped in front of the finance ministry building. Federation Vice President Paula Dobles Fernández said even though their professors are on a different payment system, university students want to make sure the rights of Costa Rica’s teachers are secured. Ms. Dobles said students will continue to rally behind the unpaid teachers until the pay fiasco is solved.

A statement issued from the Universidad de Costa Rica said the university sees this affair as unacceptable and asked the government to take responsibility and immediately resolve the situation. And while his alma mater condemns the situation, President Luis Guillermo Solís has asked teachers to suspend the strike for the sake of their students who are missing valuable school time.

In the document, union leaders stipulate that the education ministry shall not enact any reprisals, like deducting pay from those teachers on strike.

The three teacher unions that collaborated in designing the would-be proposal are the Asociación Nacional de Educadores, the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza, and the Sindicato de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de Educación Costarricenses.

By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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