Changes in labor code become a hot issue for president and lawmakers

Another drama is playing out in the Costa Rican convoluted political scene.

This time the issue is whether the current president should withdraw the veto a prior president issued against a proposed law.

Just like convictions and acquittals, vetoes appear to lack permanence here. There is precedence. In July President Luis Guillermo Solís announced that he was lifting the veto issued by then-president Oscar Arias Solis to let merchants who sell tourist items to continue to do so on Calle 13 bis.

That is the street just west of the Plaza de la Democracia which now is dominated by stalls with tin roofs.

The Municipalidad de San José is challenging the action by Solís in court.

This time the issue has more far-reaching effects. The proposed law reforms the labor code to allow strikes by public employees in critical occupations, such as police and medical care.

Solís is being pressured by the Frente Amplio political party as well as union leaders to lift the veto that was issued by then-president Laura Chinchilla. To do so was one of his campaign promises.

The Unión Costarricense de Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado objects strongly to this idea and says putting the law in force would cause chaos.

The union organization Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said that if Solís fails to withdraw the veto his credibility is in question. The organization’s secretary general, Albino Vargas Barrantes, said that the measure conforms with the requirements of the International Labour Organization.

Legislative rules say that Solís has until Monday to act because such bills have a four-year life span.

Vargas said that Ms. Chinchilla bowed to the big banana and pineapple companies and says Solís might, too. Vargas cites what he calls the axis of evil, the neoliberal coalition.

The politics of this issue is enough to make the head of the average expat to swim. But if the measure becomes law, there will be more strikes. The Cámaras y Asociaciones del Sector Empresarial Privado said that the disputed measure would permit strikes even when employees are not represented by a union and when only a small percentage seeks a work stoppage.

The employers would prefer to start again with a proposal being introduced in the legislature.

Some politicians said they expect Solís to support the same maneuver in order to “kick the ball down the road.”

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