“Conciliation”: a Fast and Safe Method to Finishing Labor Conflicts

    The Costa Rican Conciliation Center (CCQL) serving our economic society

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    A few days ago, we received in our Conciliation Center (CCQL) a user who with surprise told us: “I do not know why they mention me here. In all my years as a worker, they had never told me to come to a Conciliation Center or to have to do something so formal.

    As a certified conciliator that I am, she confirmed to me the little information that citizens have about this type of conflict resolution methods. Unfortunately, we grow up thinking that, if we have a conflict, a difference or a misunderstanding, the following has to be a “lawsuit”, considering the relationship in question broken and when it is work, going to file a lawsuit.

    But if we knew that prior to this we can preserve the bond and offer each other “a coffee” to talk and together build an arrangement to end the problem that afflicts us; would you use it? Well, this method does exist.

    Conflict resolution methods

    Our legal system has conflict resolution methods called mediation and conciliation. I will focus in this space to talk about the latter and, specifically, in labor matters. I will not refer to arbitration, as it differs in several characteristics from the method that is the subject of this article, although it is also an alternative method of resolving conflicts.

    The Conciliation Centers must be formally constituted and registered with the National Directorate for Alternate Conflict Resolution, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. This means that they are centers subject to audit and that they must submit reports to each office. As well as promoting the use of this method of conflict resolution, that is, they are subject to rules and are subject to control.

    In terms of legal affairs; what is the conciliation? The most attractive feature of this solution method is its flexibility. This allows the parties to enjoy a period of time to meet together to build an agreement with which their claims are satisfied.

    Valuable principles: done in accordance with a series of mandatory compliance principles:

    Willfulness. It is of voluntary attendance and participation, that is, the parties go because they voluntarily accept to attend and make use of this method of conflict resolution, even during the process if an agreement is not to the liking of one of the parties, they are not obliged to accept it and / or sign the agreement since the will is the protagonist throughout the process.

    Confidentiality. Everything that the parties share and agree to, in conciliation is completely confidential, a duty that covers those parties, their advisers, companions (if any) and the conciliator.

    Conciliator’s impartiality. The conciliator is –or at least, he should– be a completely impartial person. This means that he has neither relationship with the parties or any kind of friendship, kinship, enmity, or conflict of interest to be a kind composer in the conciliation hearing.

    Legal framework. The conciliator supposes having experience in labor matters as it is a requirement to be able to be certified and hold hearings in this matter. This person is obliged to review the legality of the agreements reached at the hearing. On the contrary, he must refuse to approve agreements that may conflict with the current regulations applicable to that effect.

    Character of res judicata. The Conciliation Centers that have both guarantees, both from the Dinarac and the MTSS, may approve agreements. And it is done by endowing them with the character of res judicata. This means that the agreements reached there and the negotiated ends should not be discussed at another venue and, in the event of non-compliance by any of the parties, the non-defaulting party may immediately go to the enforcement process.

    Legal advisor. The worker must always have legal counsel to explain the scope of their statements and agreements.

    As noted above, this is a safe method. But I would not like to stay only in its more ‘academic’ part, but I would also like to share its benefits:

    • The parties participate in the construction of the agreement and this makes them feel more comfortable with the result. And it has been shown to make compliance more effective, as the parties feel more comfortable with the terms of the agreement.

    • There is an important saving of time and money, since an agreement is reached in a much shorter period of time compared to the time it takes to prosecute a claim and for a much lower cost.

    • It allows to preserving the bond between the parties that see their difference finalized in a friendly and non-confrontational way.

    As a certified conciliator, I invite employers and partners to make use of these types of solution methods. And I also invite you and establish it as the main method, and not an alternative, to resolve differences in the workplace.

    Finally, I tell you that, after the conciliation session of the user that was the subject of my introduction, he left very happy and calm, especially when he noticed the dynamics of the conciliation and the transparency of the agreement he reached with his employer, always in the company of your advisor.

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