FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2010
CONTACT: Jennifer Sargent, 503-703-2933
Costa Rica’s public employees and dockworkers unions join ILWU in complaint; American longshore workers and Costa Rican longshore workers share many of the same employers.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The union that represents all 25,000 West Coast longshore workers has filed a formal complaint against the Government of Costa Rica under the Dominican Republic – Central American Free Trade Agreement for “serious and repeated failures by the government of Costa Rica to effectively enforce its own labor laws.”
The 18-page complaint was filed July 20, 2010 with the Department of Labor’s Office of labor and Trade Affairs (OTLA) on behalf of three unions: the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and the Costa Rican unions Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA (SINTRAJAP) and Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (ANEP).
Among other violations, the unions charge that, “The conduct of the Costa Rican government includes a government-run media campaign to discredit the union, removal of the democratically elected leadership of the union and imposition of a government-backed employer-run board of union directors, freezing of the union’s bank accounts, militarization of the ports in the run up to a complete takeover of the union, directing the police to raid and occupy the union’s business office, and entering into an unconstitutional multi-million dollar deal with the government-backed employer-run board of union directors to entice workers to leave the union and accept privatization of the ports.” (Source: P. 2 of the complaint.)
“Americans want to believe Costa Rica is a paradise,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “But Costa Rica’s turning into a country in which police smash in doors and windows where workers have conducted peaceful meetings, where the government spreads propaganda to interfere in workers’ elections, and where working families’ well being is placed a distant second to the profits of multinational corporations.”
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division has been assisting the SINTRAJAP longshore union since shortly after the government replaced the democratically elected leadership of SINTRAJAP in the middle of a two-year term and replaced it with a government-backed group in February. The Coast Longshore Division has placed full-page advertisements in Costa Rican newspapers to inform Costa Ricans of the government’s abuses, and has sent a delegation to Limón to interview workers, meet with public officials, and document the abuses. American longshoremen work for many of the same major shipping carriers and stevedoring companies as the ones operating in Costa Rica.
“Dockworkers at Costa Rica’s Pacific port of Caldera were subjected to a similar privatization scheme in 2006 and are suffering mightily for it,” said McEllrath. “Ninety percent of longshore workers lost their jobs, those remaining saw their pay cut by two-thirds, and precarious working conditions have led to 46 waterfront deaths. Costa Rica must be held accountable for its ongoing and deliberate abuse against workers and their union rights.”
About the ILWU: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents 25,000 longshore men and women in California, Oregon and Washington. http://www.ilwu.org
About SINTRAJAP: The Sindicato de Trabajadores de JAPDEVA (in English, the Union of Workers of JAPDEVA) represents 1,400 longshore workers and port employees in Costa Rica who work for the major fruit exporting ports of Limón and Moín on the Caribbean coast. http://anep.or.cr/
About ANEP: The Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados (in English, the National Association of Public and Private Employees) represents 15,000 Costa Rican workers in all sectors and is the Costa Rican equivalent of the AFL-CIO in the United States. http://www.sintrajap.com/