President will try to head off a general strike in session today

Union leaders say they see a meeting today with the president as a possibility for effective dialogue. That was the view expressed by the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados as officials there prepare for the meeting today.

President Laura Chinchilla is trying to stop an indefinite general strike that would be a serious economic blow to the country.

Public employees have been protesting her decree in which she established a 5,000-colons monthly pay raise for the first six months of 2012. Public employees are upset at the amount and also because the decree came outside of salary negotiations.

Union workers showed their muscle Wednesday when many teachers walked out to march, and dock workers closed the port of Limón for eight hours.

A general strike would involve many more public employees, including, perhaps, the police.
Albino Vargas Barrantes, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados said in a Web page posting that he would take advantage of the meeting with the president to point out groups of employees he said were in precarious economic conditions.

Among these are the street patrolmen, members of the Policía Penitenciaria, guards at schools who work for the education ministry, and park rangers. He also cited what he said were low salaries for office workers, drivers, secretaries and others who work for the government in low-level jobs.

These are the people who are most likely to participate in a general strike.

The Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza said that Ms. Chinchilla called for the meeting today just a few minutes before the expiration of a deadline issued by union leaders. The meeting is at 2 p.m. The deadline is 3 p.m. So far Ms. Chinchilla has taken a strong stand and has said that any money for raises would have to be borrowed.

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