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Dockers’ win in Costa Rica
2 November 2006
Dockers, who took strike action in two Costa Rican ports, have won a substantial victory after they reached an agreement with the government. The workers were protesting against the lack of consultation over restructuring plans and demanding that the terms of their collective bargaining agreement be respected.
The dockers, members of the ITF-affiliated SINTRAJAP, began a work-to-rule on 25 September in the ports of Limon and Moin. The authorities’ heavy-handed response was to send in 300 police and security personnel, who took over cargo handling work from the union members. The workers suffered attacks and intimidation.
However, in a dramatic turnaround last Friday, the union reached a groundbreaking agreement with the government. The agreement meets all the unions’ demands, including commitments to: pay outstanding benefits; establish a special commission to deal with the modernisation of the ports and investigate the labour conditions of the dockers. The deal also includes a pledge by the company not to harass or persecute workers or trade union leaders. Strike action was called off after the deal was struck.
Last week, the ITF and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) lobbied fruit companies using the Costa Rican ports, as well as the port of Quetzal in Guatemala; a similar stand-off involving riot police took place there when members of the ITF-affiliated STEPQ demonstrated over port privatisation and union oppression. Taking a cue from the Costa Rican response, the Guatemalan government has now also indicated that it is ready to come to the negotiating table this week.
Commenting on the victory, ITF Inter-American Regional Secretary Antonio Fritz, said: “The union was forced to take action. We hope the government understands that it has to respect freedom of association and collective bargaining agreements. Is incredible that unions have to take action simply to demand that the law and the international conventions, signed by the Costa Rican government, be respected.”
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