Caja union workers see a plot for privatization of their institution

A union leader of the Caja Costarricense de Seguridad Social claims the nation’s government is purposely trying to weaken the Caja to rally the population behind privatizing medical care. Martha Rodríguez González, associate secretary general of the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja, joined a large contingent of the nation’s working class to protest along Avenida Central on Costa Rica’s labor day Thursday.

In a letter handed out to the protesters and bystanders, Ms. Rodríguez writes that the Caja’s services have deteriorated in quality and quantity over the past few years. Additionally, she says the administration in charge of human resources has made workers despondent and taken from their basic rights as workers.

She claims that Costa Rican officials want to deteriorate the influence of public healthcare because they are feeling pressure from large pharmacies and private enterprise.

“Their strategy is clear in trying to bring the Caja into a crisis so that the disarmed population will accept privatization,” she writes. “On this end we expect urgent response from the new government.”

During the march, González said the protest gave Caja workers an opportunity to voice their grievances against the public organization’s mismanagement and neglecting oversights.

“Today is worker’s day and it interests us to know today the working class all over this country is demanding a change,” Ms. Rodríguez said. “We in the Caja are fighting against the fact that they pay us low wages combined with the institution’s poor state.”

Employees from the Caja complained of wages, workers rights, and infrastructural problems during Thursday’s protest. Olivier Esquivel Hernández works at Hospital México and said he and his colleagues are worried that they will be victims of the Caja’s serious finance problems.

“They are putting us in a dangerous position because of the Caja’s deficit,” he said. “If they don’t default, then many of the state employees in the Caja will be the ones paying for it during this crisis.”

María Méndez, another Caja worker, agreed that there are numerous underlying issues with the organization’s structure and the way it treats its employees.

“The salaries are not fair considering the amount of appointments they give us over the long-term,” she said.

Many of the workers marching shared optimistic stances towards the new government. Esquivel said he hopes the government can face the Caja’s problems headon once the change of office takes effect next Thursday.

“We expect a positive change and with the arrival of an authority that will strengthen the services and provide better attention to the workers,” Esquivel said.

Earlier this week Luis Guillermo Solís appointed María del Rocío Sáenz Madrigal, a former minister of Salud, to head the Caja under his administration. Ms. Sáenz said she wants her office to provide better attention for patients with improved human resources and management, and ultimately advance the Caja’s overall perception.

Ms. Rodríguez said the new leaders in government will have full support from the union if they keep good on their promises to bring power back to those in public healthcare.

“We are giving the benefit of the doubt to this government.” she said. “We are going to wait to see how they act but we hope that their promises made during the campaign are effectively carried out and lead to the country’s further development.”

By Michael Krumholtz
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

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