, COSTA RICA – Job of the Ministry of Labour regarding Direct Agreements

COSTA RICA – Job of the Ministry of Labour regarding Direct Agreements

In January 2024, the Legal Affairs Directorate of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) of Costa Rica issued a decree OFICIO-MTSS-DAJ-AER-013-2024, mandating compliance across all ministry departments, particularly under the purview of the National Labor Inspection Directorate.

This decree restricts Direct Agreements as tools for resolving collective conflicts by stipulating that the nature of the conflict will determine the framework for resolution. Representatives of the workers, elected freely within the Permanent Committee, are authorized to address issues submitted to them when no majority union representatives are present to advocate for the workers’ social and economic interests within the company.

Thus, Permanent Committees can provide solutions to various problems affecting workers in companies. This raises the question: why does the decree mandate a specific or singular conflict between workers and employers for the Committee to act as their representative?

The MTSS pronouncement has significantly limited the scope of Direct Agreements as traditionally understood, which typically encompass broader collective negotiations leading to potentially more extensive benefits than those found in some Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Despite reservations from the International Labour Organization (ILO) regarding the role of Permanent Committees as worker representatives and their authority to sign Direct Agreements applicable to all employees, it must be acknowledged that these representatives enjoy the same rights and protections as union delegates. They are democratically elected under the vigilant oversight of the Ministry and cannot face any detriment in their rights or employment due to their representative roles or the agreements they negotiate with the company.

The Labour Code, in Chapter Thirteen on the Resolution of Economic and Social Collective Conflicts and the Conciliation and Arbitration Procedure, establishes in Article 614 that: «Direct agreement, conciliation, and arbitration are means of resolving economic and social conflicts arising in labour relations».

If indeed these mechanisms are recognized as means to resolve economic and social conflicts, and if agreements reached are meticulously reviewed and documented by the MTSS, then why limit their powers as conflict resolution mechanisms by confining them to specific disputes, with their role ending until the next conflict arises, and so forth? Why diminish their true representativeness in safeguarding workers’ interests, even when no conflict necessarily exists?

Sylvia Bejarano
Costa Rica

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