Educators to begin massive, “indefinite” strike; ask parents to keep children home

(ICR archive)

(ICR archive)

May 5th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) Educators’ unions will go on strike across the country beginning today, claiming some 7,000 teachers have been owed wages since as early as January.  The Ministry of Public Education (MEP) blames the problem on technical issues related to their payroll system.

 

Last month, MEP had promised to pay all past-due salaries during the month of May, but union leaders are tired of waiting.

 

Most of the unions involved are of public sector educators, such as the National Association of Secondary Schoolteachers (APSE), though some private sector educators have promised to participate in solidarity.

 

Union leaders have called for a total closure of all schools in the country today, and plan to begin marches in their local school districts.  Demonstrations will continue tomorrow, and on Wednesday educators from across the country plan to travel to San José in some 100 buses for mass demonstrations.

 

Roadblocks are expected in Guanacaste, San Carlos, Perez Zeledon, San Ramon and other areas of the country today and tomorrow, leading up to the larger demonstration in San José on Wednesday, which is expected to cause significant traffic problems in the city.

 

Union leaders said their strike would last indefinitely until all past-due wages are paid.   According to union leaders, teachers and other employees have faced foreclosures on their homes, while others have been jailed for being unable to make child support payments – some even arrested in their classrooms, union leaders claim.

 

The problem affects not just teachers, but janitors, school cooks, and other employees in the country’s public school system.

 

Union leaders are calling on parents not to send their children to school and support “hungry educators,” adding they are unable to provide a quality education while facing financial turmoil.

 

Union leaders added that they would suspend their demonstrations on Thursday for the inauguration of President-elect Solís, but resume their protests on Friday.

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  • roberto

    Minister Garnier, do you want your haircut like the teachers’ salaries?

  • scottm

    Totally unacceptable. The government should be embarrassed to no end. This should get international exposure to simply shame the government to the extent it deserves.

    • disgusted

      Embarrassed! really. I do not know of any Tico I know who ask for a loan then “”Forget” to pay it back, embarrassed! Just like the government here as well. My comment may seem out of line .. I woke up grumpy today.

      • Lav

        Well if the constant texts from GOLLO to Carlos on my pay as you go ICE number are any indication… There are some Ticos who take out loans and don’t pay them back…

  • jdennisg

    This union has patience beyond belief! Would you wait four months to get paid?

  • Ken Morris

    Yeah, I have to side with the union on this one. I personally know two teachers who had to wait months for delayed paychecks and waited in line at the ministry of education with one. It was a long line too. There is no excuse for a payroll system this fouled up, and it’s been fouled up for years.

    • DaveP

      I’ve heard conflicting reports from various Ticos today, but they all seem to say its just part of their pay that is missing, not as this article and comments imply, ‘no pay for months.’ Able to clarify?

      • Ken Morris

        I have no idea. In the one case I know of, it was I think part of her pay. In the other case, which I only know via hearsay, my impression was that it was all of the pay. My sense is that the ministry is just slow to make any change, like paying a new hire or paying someone who moves from part- to full-time. Maybe those who are already on the books have no problems (and maybe some of those continue getting paychecks long after they’re dead). Anyway, my guess is that those caught in the glitch have probably had a recent change in assignment of some kind, but I’m guessing.

  • expatin paradise

    Isn’t the government in violation of its own labor laws by failing to pay these salaries? Wouldn’t a private employer face serious legal consequences for acting so irresponsibly? If the salaries aren’t being paid, we can be sure that they aren’t paying the caja, either. Why hasn’t the minister of education been brought up on charges, or at least hanged in effigy? I’m not buying the story of a payroll glitch as an excuse for more than a few days’ delay. If necessary, the government should be rolling up to every school in an armored car and paying teachers in cash and getting receipts to get this problem under control.

    While I sympathize with the school employees, I am concerned about the children. Where my children go to (public) school, classes are cancelled or hours are cut at least one day per week on average, generally because the teachers and/or the director are attending “reuniones.” One of my kids’ teachers didn’t show up today. The kids are being short-changed on their educations, and the teachers and director don’t seem very concerned. When I contacted the office of the Ministry to inquire why the law on minimum number of class days was being ignored, I was told that they have no real authority outside the GMA (it isn’t as if I am in the boonies – I can see the national stadium from here).

    There would be more support for the public school teachers if they provided more support for the children. Of course, if the wealthy didn’t send their kids to private school, there would be much more support for public schools. It is bad enough that the public schools are far from free – between uniforms, the mandatory list of materials, fees for fiestas, and exam fees, it would not be possible for many Ticos to send their kids to school. I’m sure that many kids are kept home because of the expense. Costa Rica likes to brag about its education system, so it should do something for those bragging rights. The government should start by paying the people who work in the system.

    • disgusted

      Children education has not/nor never been a priority here. My friend son say every other day a different teacher or just a no show where he goes. Whether or not they get the 5% raise like the top administrators instead of the 2% offered. The kids here get short changed.

  • roberto

    The students! The children also suffer. I dropped my 2 sons off at their high school this morning at 7am, they both had chemistry tests and had studied all weekend, and I got a call at 7:25 to come and pick them up….no classes, no exams, nothing. No information except that they ‘probably ‘ won’t have any classes this week. Apparently the students get information and “notices” from the high school via Facebook. OMG. So now I hear, “c’mon Dad, put us in a private school.” Like I have an extra $1500 a month for that.

  • Ben

    The goverment hasn´t paid any school staff for months and PAC has no money the country is broke. Clue in everyone the ship is sinking. Teachers are just the start. Get ready for the next thing to drop. If i was in this union i would be fighting in the streets. My friend is a teacher and says goverment has not payed her in four months. Its time to fight.

    • Lav

      I think you are right, sadly. CAJA is broke, the education system is broke, and most middle income earners are relying on credit to survive.

  • Canamjay

    My extended middle class Tico family includes many teachers; several
    with advanced degrees earned by great personal sacrifice. The disrespect
    shown for teachers in many US districts (AND Canadian) and increasingly in CR is
    disgusting and if not curbed, will show in the economy big time; just
    look at the sinking results of the US education system as compared with
    smarter countries around the world. Education is the foundation upon
    which every country builds its future and any country which does not act
    accordingly is doomed. some of my family have not been paid accurately since January.. they have kids and many obligations of their own. Solis is coming into office at a very difficult time, and while I am gratified he ‘supports’ the teachers… I can only imagine the financial mess he is faced with and hope he has the strength to prevail.