Constitutional court admits action against state refinery union contract

The Sala IV constitutional court unexpectedly decided Tuesday to admit for consideration an action against the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A.

The action claiming unconstitutionality had only been presented the day before.

This is the action that challenges the contact between the state petroleum monopoly and its union, Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros, Químicos y Afines. The action asks the court to throw out many of the benefits provided employees.

The action was presented by Otto Guevara Guth, a lawmaker with the Movimiento Libertario.

In the summary of the case, the political party quoted Guevara saying that the state refinery is an absolutely inefficient firm.  He said that union contract, called a convención colectiva in Spanish is a piñata, best translated into English as something providing costly benefits.

The refinery is a politically sensitive state company like the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad with employees very conscious of their rights and benefits.

The Sala IV has been subjected to criticism over the weekend because it ruled that all the benefits paid to refinery employees can be calculated to be included in the price of motor fuel. The Autoridad Reguladora de Servicios Público sought to exclude the items.

That means motorists are paying the tab. According to Guevara, the union contract calls for:

-12 million colons a year to purchase medicines that are not available through the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social;

-Payments to workers for gynecological, prenatal and post-natal health care;

-Payments to private labs for all the male workers for prostate exams;

-11.2 million colons a year for scholarships for employees and their children;

-Burial payments for workers, their spouses, parents or dependent children.

-A marriage bonus and bonuses at the birth of each child.

-6.2 million colons each year for social, union, sports and cultural activities for workers and their families as well as money for end-of-year activities.

-A payment of 650,000 colons a month to each worker to pay for child care center enrollment.

-A transfer of 5.6 million colons to the union to pay for school supplies for workers’ children.

In addition, there is a fund for savings, loans and housing to which the company pays 10 percent of the total monthly salaries.

In addition to payments to workers, Guevara criticized the management of the company for spending millions in modernization of the refinery that has been closed.

The refinery is basically a distributor of imported petroleum products.

He also cited the ill-fated plan to build a refinery in conjunction with the Chinese in Moįn. The deal was with the Sociedad Reconstructora Chino Costarricense and cost $50 million, he said. The deal has been shelved.

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