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Viewing cable 06SANJOSE1276, IMPACT OF PUBLIC UNION PROTEST SMALL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06SANJOSE1276 2006-06-09 17:05 2011-03-03 16:04 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Appears in these articles:
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasDestacadas/Investigacion2697430.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotaPrincipal/Investigacion2697496.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697489.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697532.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2697535.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/NotasSecundarias/Investigacion2701964.aspx
http://www.nacion.com/2011-03-03/Investigacion/Relacionados/Investigacion2701965.aspx
VZCZCXYZ0022
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #1276 1601738
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 091738Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5312
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS SAN JOSE 001276 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN JASON MACK 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ELAB PGOV CS
SUBJECT: IMPACT OF PUBLIC UNION PROTEST SMALL 
 
REF: A. SAN JOSE 1204 
 
     B. SAN JOSE 1251 
 
------- 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1.  The work stoppage and protest planned for June 7 and 8 
took place on June 7 only, and the effects on economic 
activity in Costa Rica were minimal.  The narrow focus of the 
work stoppage - the nullification of various provisions in 
public employee collective bargaining agreements - did not 
appear to motivate more than a few thousand protesters to 
peacefully protest through the streets of San Jose and in 
front of the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court ruling put 
Costa Rica in an awkward position at an ILO conference.  End 
summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
WORK STOPPAGE AND PROTEST PEACEFUL, IMPACT SMALL 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
2.  On June 7, several thousand public employees took the day 
off work and marched to the Costa Rican Supreme Court to 
express their opposition to several recent rulings that 
nullified certain provisions in their collective bargaining 
agreements found to be excessive (reftel A).  Estimates of 
 
the protest size varied, from a police estimate of 3,000 to a 
union estimate of over 7,000 protesters.  Contrary to the 
prediction of some union leaders, the protest failed to 
impede normal economic activity.  With the exception of the 
closure of the central offices at Costa Rica's Electricity 
Institute (ICE), there were no disruptions of government 
services.  Traffic was affected only in San Jose central, 
where the march to the courthouse took place between 11 A.M. 
and 1 P.M., well outside of normal commuting times.  There 
were no arrests or disturbances reported. As expected, there 
was also an anti-CAFTA theme to the protest, though the 
stated goal was specifically to demonstrate disapproval of 
the collective bargaining provisions recently struck down. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
COSTA RICA'S MIXED MESSAGES AT THE ILO 
-------------------------------------- 
 
3.  President Oscar Arias addressed the 95th Conference of 
the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva on June 
8.  With the theme "decent employment lies at the heart of 
peace," Arias called for improvements in education and the 
opening of trade as tools to increase job growth in the 
developing world.  He used the occasion to once again present 
his plan to "link international cooperation with peace, 
social investment, sustainable development, and a reduction 
in military spending" which he calls the Costa Rica Consensus 
(reftel B).  Coincidentally, at the same conference, Costa 
Rica will be one of 25 countries scrutinized in a public 
hearing by the Standards and Fundamental Principals and 
Rights at Work Commission for delaying ratification of 
various conventions that recognize the right of public 
workers to bargain collectively.  The same commission will 
also look at Costa Rica's recent decision affecting 
collective bargaining.  In its defense, Costa Rica is 
expected to argue that it was the former Human Rights 
Ombudsman, not the current, who asked the supreme court to 
review the constitutionality of the collective bargaining 
provisions.  The Arias government wants to avoid an ILO 
investigation due to the negative publicity this would 
generate and in general has portrayed the dispute as one 
between the workers and the supreme court. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
4.  The work stoppage and protest march was smaller and less 
significant than some union leaders predicted.  The 
predictions related to poloffs by Albino Vargas of the 
National Association of Public Employees (ANEP) proved to be 
most accurate.  Public interest and support for this protest 
did not appear to be strong.  The protesters were decrying 
losses of fringe benefits the large majority of Costa Ricans 
would never receive.  Additionally, many Costa Ricans 
associate the cost of these fringe benefits with high prices 
for government services.  Thus, it is difficult to determine 
from this protest whether the power of the unions to 
influence the debate in the CAFTA ratification process is 
waxing or waning. 
FRISBIE