The Poor Have No "Acquired Rights"

As unemployment rises and poverty increases, the Costa Rican Minister of Finance has declared "urgent" the payment of bonuses to central government officials.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


If you are an official in the central government of Costa Rica, your bonus this December will average 15.6% higher than 2010. But if you are poor, and most likely also unemployed, the only thing that will increase is the number of your neighbors in the same situation.

The Finance Ministry’s statement is emphatic: paying the bonuses "is an obligation that must be addressed urgently, regardless of the country's fiscal situation." And it's true: the non-payment of bonuses to central government officials could be considered a crime, since it would be a violation of their sacred "vested rights" established through collective agreements and other arrangements for managers and leaders and that can always be called upon to ensure wage increases and other perks.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC in Spanish) announced that the unemployment rate rose from 7.3% in 2010 to 7.7% this year, while poverty increased from 21.3% to 21.6%, which means there are now 37,000 people in Costa Rica who are poor, and 105,000 people without work.

Maybe it's time to include in the proposed general increase in taxes, currently under consideration in the Legislature, a clause stating that it will review all collective agreements and other rules abuses which give irrevocable power of vested rights to the bureaucracy. Because if you can change the rules for the private sector and remove tax exemptions - or even increase taxes, which amounts to the same thing - why can’t you change the rules so that the central government workers also have to tighten their belts?

Perhaps then the tax bill would deserve the pompous and dishonest name "Solidarity Tax Act."

More on this topic

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Trade unionists who promote it, the officials who estimate it, the rulers who decree it, are not part of the legion of unemployed who surely would work for less than the official minimum wage.


The unemployed have no voice, in principle because they do not pay a sindical fee, and if they did have one, they would not raise it, because it feels devoid of the dignity necessary to do so, because they are used to adopting a very humble position in job interviews. Nothing further impoverishes the human spirit that lack of gainful income of one form or another.

Acquired Rights: Absurd Economics and Institutionalized Injustice

June 2014

In the public sector in Costa Rica collective agreements have become synonymous with illegal privileges and economic dysfunction, under the concept that acquired rights are unassailable.


If a private sector company ceases to be competitive, no matter for what reason, it will eventually fall into bankruptcy and its employees will lose their jobs, no matter how many agreements they have signed with their employer.

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