To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Protest Letter - Police and security guards brought in as strike breakers in Costa Rican ports
To DOCTOR OSCAR ARIAS SÁNCHEZ, PRESIDENTE DE LA REPÚBLICA, COSTA RICA
Ref: Protest Letter - Police and security guards brought in as strike breakers in Costa Rican ports
I am writing to express my serious concerns about the situation in the ports sector in Costa Rica.
According to the information I have received, members of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA (SINTRAJAP) were forced to mobilise recently following continued disregard by the company of their collective bargaining agreements. Workers took action with the aim of protesting against the situation. Included in their demands was the payment of benefits that, by law, they are entitled to.
I also understand that previously, in 2003, SINTRAJAP members took legitimate industrial action, in line with national legislation and the international conventions ratified by your country. At that time the former government broke the law; it used strikebreakers and militarised the port facilities. Workers and some members of civil society were savagely attacked; this was reported in the press and is back up by photographs that we have in our files. The conflict ended when the government recognised that the workers’ action was legal, and an agreement was signed between
the Presidency, the unions SINTRAJAP and FETRAL, and different civil and religious organisations.
Unfortunately the commitments made by the company in that agreement by the Minister of the Presidency and the CEO of JAPDEVA, were disregarded. In addition, the clear intention to privatise the port via a concession, without dialogue with SINTRAJAP who are the port workers’ representatives, once again forced the union to demonstrate its objections, though implementing a “work to rule”. This action is not considered illegal in
Costa Rica’s legislation.
Despite this the port has once more been militarised. Armed police constantly are constantly intimidating the workers. As a government that has taken a strong stand against weapons and against the possible manufacturing of weapons in Costa Rica, I am certain that you are not in favour of using armed forces to repress citizens.
In Puerto Moin, armed personnel are handling some of the port services, to prevent workers from doing so. This is completely illegal. Armed personnel attacked and excluded two workers from the port area. No legal action has been taken against them.
I am aware that Costa Rica is pursuing a policy of abolishing national-level collective agreements, through pseudo legal mechanisms. This constitutes a violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, both ratified by your country on June 2nd 1960, and which are contained in fundamental principles of the ILO which were, once more, ratified by your country in 1998 through the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and rights at work.
In this Declaration your government, as well as the Costa Rican workers’ and employers’ organisations, committed to uphold basic human values - values that are vital to our social and economic lives, and which include Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining.
The attempt not to undermine or disregard collective agreements signed freely between trade unions and employers in your country also constitutes a violation of human rights, including the rights and obligation of your citizens - who have the right to work as well as to join unions. Thus, the rights not only of Port Workers of Puerto Limon but also the
rights of all workers in your country are in danger. The breach of collective bargaining agreements in your country appears to be spreading, in a government-backed attempt to take away those rights historically eared by workers. It also demonstrates to the international community that other international compromises and contracts signed by the Costa Rica government may well be illegitimately cancelled by one of the parties.
I fully understand that the militarisation of the Costa Rica’s ports may not have been done with the express aim of violating the universal rights of workers. However, port workers simply wish their rights to be respected - rights that have been recognised by the company and the government in the past. At the same time, SINTRAJAP and some NGOs in Limon have presented a plan for port modernisation, which they designed with the aim of increasing productivity - unfortunately this proposal received no response from JAPDEVA management. It is important that workers, who are experts in their field, seek mechanisms that would make port operations more profitable, not only because they want to have an efficient company but also because - according to the information we have received - JAPDEVA invests an considerable funds in development and infrastructure in the region, a benefit which would be lost if JAPDEVA, or part of the company, is privatised through a concession.
I would therefore urge you to ensure that
a) The armed forces that are currently in the port facility stop attacking and threatening workers, and that those who have done so should be punished;
b) That port operations return to the workers, ending the militarisation of the port;
c) That the JAPDEVA collective bargaining agreement is recognised and respected and its benefits are honoured, in accordance with the international compromises of Costa Rica;
d) That a dialogue with SINTRAJAP about the future of Puerto Moin and Puerto Limon is established, with the aim of ensuring that the port responds to the twin needs of development and productivity that your economy requires.
Thank you for your attention,