The wage council of the Ministry of Labor sets the minimum wage scale for the public and private sectors twice a year. Monthly minimum wages for the private sector ranged from 172,610 colones ($314) for domestic workers to 619,204 colones ($1,126) for university graduates since January 1. According to INEC, in 2014 the poverty line was 105,976 colones ($193) in urban areas and 81,344 colones ($148) in rural areas. The national minimum wage applied to both Costa Rican and migrant workers. The law sets workday hours, overtime remuneration, days of rest, and annual vacation rights. Workers generally may work a maximum of eight hours a day or 48 hours weekly. All workers are entitled to one day of rest after six consecutive days of work and annual paid vacations. The law provides that workers be paid for overtime work at a rate 50 percent above their stipulated wage or salary. Although there is no statutory prohibition against compulsory overtime, the labor code stipulates the workday may not exceed 12 hours. Law 9095 covers labor exploitation as part of antitrafficking law and imposes penalties upon employers who exploit workers in conditions that are a “detriment to [a worker’s] fundamental human rights” but that may not rise to the level of forced labor.
The government maintains a dedicated authority to enforce occupational safety and health (OSH) standards. The Labor Ministry’s National Council of Occupational Health and Safety is a tripartite OSH regulatory authority with government, employer, and employee representation. According to labor organizations, the government did not enforce these standards effectively in either the formal or the informal sectors.
Workers can remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. According to the Labor Ministry, this is a responsibility shared by the employer and employee. The law assigns responsibility to the employer, including granting OSH officers access to workplaces, but it also authorizes workers to seek assistance from appropriate authorities (OSH or labor inspectors) for noncompliance with OSH workplace standards, including risks at work.
The Ministry of Labor’s Inspection Directorate (DNI) is responsible for labor inspection, in collaboration with the Social Security Agency and the National Insurance Institute. The DNI employed 93 labor inspectors who investigated all types of labor violations. The number of inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. According to the Ministry of Labor, inspections occurred both in response to complaints and at the initiative of inspectors. The DNI stated it could visit any employer, formal or informal, and inspections are always unannounced.
The Labor Ministry generally addressed complaints by sending inspection teams to investigate and coordinate with each other on follow-up actions. Inspectors cannot fine or sanction employers who do not comply with labor laws; rather, they investigate and refer noncompliance results to labor courts. The process of fining companies or compelling employers to pay back wages or overtime could take years.
The Ministry of Labor generally enforced minimum wages effectively in the San Jose area but was not as effective in enforcing the minimum wage laws in rural areas, particularly where large numbers of migrants were employed, and in the large informal sector, which comprises 41 percent of employment. The ministry publicly recognized that many workers, including in the formal sector, received less than the minimum wage. During the first six months of the year, the ministry conducted 1,405 visits to priority cantons with low levels of development in an attempt to assess and address their situation through DNI intervention.
The government continued to implement the campaign for minimum wage compliance. According to the ministry, 33 percent of the economically active population in the nonagricultural sector was in the informal economy. The Ministry of Labor, through the National Program in Support of the Microenterprise, provided technical assistance and access to credit for informal microentrepreneurs to improve productive and labor conditions in the informal economy.
Observers expressed concern about exploitative working conditions in fisheries, small businesses, and agricultural activities. Unions also reported systematic violations of labor rights and provisions concerning working conditions, overtime, and wages in the export-processing zones. Labor unions reported overtime pay violations, such as nonpayment of wages and mandatory overtime, were common in the private sector and particularly in export-processing zones. There were reports agricultural workers, particularly migrant laborers in the pineapple industry, worked in unsafe conditions, including exposure to hazardous chemicals without proper training. The national insurance company reported 61,203 cases of workplace-related illnesses and injuries and 19 workplace fatalities from January to June.