ICE files court case over employee salary disclosures

The state telecom company said it filed a Sala IV appeal Wednesday to defend the rights of its workers. The case stems from publication of the salaries the workers receive.

The court appeal is against the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social and Otto Guevara Guth, a Moviemento Libertario lawmaker.

The company, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, is in the news because it has lost many mobile telephone customers and some of its subsidiaries, like Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. are deeply in debt.

Basically the company known as ICE said that the figures provided by Guevara that ended up in newspapers and on television were incorrect and that the Caja should not have made the salaries available.

Guevara seems to have gotten ahold of a monthly filing by ICE that listed its employees and the most recent salaries.

This is a document that employers have to file each month.

ICE said that there were 2,000 signatures affixed to the court appeal. It also said that the salary figures were incorrect because they represented a month with three paydays instead of the usual two.

Spanish-language newspapers reported that a construction worker was making 1.4 million colons (some $2,650) a month and that a cook was making the same amount.

ICE issued a statement that contains a number of what the firm said were corrections. In the case of the construction worker, the individual is actually an operator of a tunnel digging machine who makes  564,000 colons ($1,068) a month. And the cook who was mentioned is really a supervisor of the large dinning hall at the Proyecto Hidroeléctrico Reventazón where 4,000 persons are fed each day, the company said.

The company did not say what it sought to accomplish with the Sala IV appeal, which the announcement called a habeas data. It suggested that salaries of public employees should not be made public.

The disclosure subjected the workers to personal attacks, criticism and jokes, it said. The data included the name, the position held, the individual cédula number and the salary.

The company said that the disclosure by the Caja was not legitimate. However, such salary information usually is available on credit reports and similar.

The disclosure invaded the employees’ intimate sphere and their private life, the announcement said.

There have been a series of such disclosures. La Nación reported Wednesday that a Universidad de Costa Rica traffic officer makes 2.7 million colons a month, a bit more than $5,100.

The rector of the university, Henning Jensen, quickly held a press conference in which he said the data the newspaper received was imprecise and that the traffic officer’s salary also reflected an extra payment for sick days.

The rector also said that the Caja’s list of job categories does not fit well with the actual jobs at the university. ICE made the same argument.

Earlier in the week, employees of the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo, the fuel monopoly, held a protest to defend their salaries.

A.M. Costa Rica has editorialized that all salary payments and other government expenses should be made public as a matter of routine.

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