Accord ends strike by workers at public clinics and hospitals

The operator of the nation’s public hospitals and clinics reached an agreement with its unions Saturday, and the four-day strike has been ended.

The final agreement promised no reprisals against strikers and that the reduction in pay for the four days on strike will be spread out over three pay periods.

The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social was represented by a team headed by Ileana Balmaceda Arias, the executive president of the institution. Each of the dozen unions had their own representatives.

The accord also said that the unions have the right to continue to make administrative appeals of a recent change in sick pay policy. Caja workers used to get 100 percent of their pay when they called in sick. Now they get 60 percent, which was one of the issues that caused the strike. The Caja officials are relying on rulings by the Procuraduría General de la República and by the Contraloría General de la Republica,

The agreement also sets up a committee to study the sick pay issue.

The agreement also creates a panel to study the money owed
the Caja by the central government. The unions claim the amount is $2 billion. The central government has agreed to pay some but not all of the debt this year.

Also part of the agreement is that all the entities that make up the hospital medical system will get their full budget amount this year.

The agreement is not binding on the Caja until it is approved by its board of directors. But that would seem to be highly probably.

Officially the strike ended at 1 p.m. Saturday,

In a related action Friday, the Poder Judicial said that the fiscal general had ordered an investigation of the irregularities in the Caja. The fiscal general, Jorge Chavarría, was responding to news reports relating to the sick pay issue. La Nación reported that the number of people absent on sick days spiked during the World Cup soccer games.

The investigation is in charge of the Fiscalía Adjunta de Fraudes, the Poder Judicial said.

The agency also reported that Chavarría has instructed prosecutors to open cases even when the amount of money involved is small. That is a reversal the existing policy.

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