November 12th, 2012 (InsideCostaRica.com) This morning, dozens of waiters dressed in white shirts will be meeting in the Plaza de la Democracia, to protest against the Costa Rican Restaurant Chamber (CACORE, in Spanish), which has issued a new guideline, encouraging member restaurants to fire, and rehire all of their wait staff as commission-only employees.
If restaurants follow along, waiters would no longer have a base salary, but would rather work only for the 10% “service fee” that is automatically added to clients’ bills.
Jimmy Rojas, a leader of the waiter-protesters, explained that thousands of waiters are being fired and pressured to accept the new form of compensation, through which “owners found an easier way to profit from their work.”
He also explained that previously, there was a big debate in regards to the 10% “service fee”, which even reached the Constitutional Court. In a vote, legislators indicated that the 10% service charge was part of the waiters’ salary, and was in addition to the base salary of 240,000 colons. The fee, then, was supposed to be used to calculate the payment for the Costa Rican Social Security System (CCSS) and was also supposed to be used to calculate “aguinaldo” (extra month’s payment in December).
As a result, restaurant owners, unhappy with the ruling, began to withhold and divide the fee with all the workers in the restaurant, including kitchen staff.
“However, now the company owners, in order to evade payment of the CCSS and have ‘free’ employees, via the new guidelines from CACORE, are firing the waiters and signing a contract for services, changing the rules of the game and paying them on commission only. In other words, if we sell today, we get paid, if not, we starve to death,” Rojas added.
In an attempt to reverse the trend, the protesting waiters plan a series of actions and acts of protest to begin today, starting in the Plaza de la Democracia, where they will gather to attempt an appeal for legal protection against their employers.