COVID-19 Update: Costa Rica

COSTA RICA – SEC (Union of Educational Workers of Costa Rica)

Central American teachers have been checking in with one another through virtual meetings, CoDev was gladly invited to join the discussion and today we bring you a brief report from our Costa Rican partner the Education Workers’ Union @sindicatosec.

In Costa Rica as of 19 December 2020, 157,472 people tested positive for COVID-19, 125,488 people have recovered, and 1,996 have died.1

On March 16, the government declared a state of emergency, closing public institutions including schools, for an indefinite period of time; suspended work contracts, and issued information on social distancing and hand washing to reduce the risk of infection.

In November 2019 the Executive presented Congress with a Bill called “solidarity contribution”; a tax on wages and pensions, for May, June and July, which help finance a plan to support workers who lost their jobs due to current health crisis.

Mobility and travel restrictions are strict with an increase in fines for vehicles circulating between 10:00pm and 4:00am from $56.00CAD to $245.00CAD. The only exceptions are for cargo transportation, emergency services and media. During Holy Week, only those with assigned plate numbers will be allowed to circulate. In addition, the government created a Medical Centre for COVID-19 patients only.

According to our education partners, the government favours projects from companies both inside and outside the free trade zones in order to add flexibility and reduce working hours. Big businesses and corporations have been pardoned their debt with the National Treasury. It was also announced that the annual wage increase for workers will not happen this year and workers with accumulated vacation will be forced to use it. IN some cases, and others will have to take anticipated vacation time.

The Ministry of Education is offering online teaching training through various platforms beginning at the end of April. SEC and the Women’s Secretariat are demanding the government ensure free WIFI and internet access for students and teachers in order to implement distance learning.

Eighty percent of elementary and secondary teachers are women; many are heads of their households and will have to add these new tasks to their regular unpaid domestic and care work. A health crisis should not lead to another social crisis.

SEC’s Women’s Secretariat’s work to empower women and improve their participation with their union is supported by @BCTearchersFederation.

Further update on actions: As a measure to ensure food security, SEC’s Cooperative, which normally provides school materials for every level of education to teachers and parents, is now also responding to the health emergency by offering up to 50% discount on food hampers and deliveries to all affiliated members and public in general.

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