President Luis Guillermo Solís praised his rescue of a new labor code as something that is just and supports democracy.
He spoke on during a regularly scheduled presidential segment Sunday on national television. He spoke a day after he reversed a veto of the lengthy labor code that had been imposed by president Laura Chinchilla.
Solís acted on the last day that the measure was active. It had been in the legislature for two session, and Ms. Chinchilla vetoed it in 2012. What remains to be seen is if a president can reverse what appears to be a decisive action by another. Litigation is guaranteed.
Solís praised the measure for giving more protection to workers from abusive bosses and sexual harassment, particularly for those who are pregnant or nursing infants. He also said the measure, which will replace the exiting 70-year-old code, would protect workers against discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
A principal objection to the new code was that it permits strikes in essential public services, like police, hospitals and by workers on public docks.
The president said he soon would issue a decree forbidding strikes in essential services and urged the legislature to fast track a bill to do likewise.
The new code does not go into effect until May 2016.
Solís also said that the new code would speed up
labor cases because it provides for oral hearings. There may be more such cases because the new document also provides for free legal services for low-income workers and orders the Colegio de Abogados to provide it.
Representatives of management were critical of the Solís action. The Cámara de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación outlined three other issues with the new code.
In addition to allowing strikes in essential public services, the code also prohibits employers, mainly the government, from contracting temporary workers. Solís did that to end the recent dock strike in Limón.
The chamber also noted that once a strike is declared illegal, there still are no sanctions for workers if they return to work within 48 hours. In addition, the chamber noted, the percentage of workers who can call a strike are not representative of the majority within an institution or company.
The Cámara Costarricense de la Industria Alimentaria y de Bebidas also said it opposed the action by Solís and said the situation was ironic in that he just returned from the United States where he was seeking investments in Costa Rica and then created such uncertainty in the commercial sector.
Most employers considered the existing code to be stacked against them in favor of the employees and that firing a worker for cause was a lengthy process and expensive.
Reversing the veto was a campaign promise by Solís and his actions received praise from Frente Amplio and his own political party, Acción Ciudadana.