San José municipal workers on strike over private garbage firm

Unionized municipal workers in San José went out on strike Monday in an effort to dislodge the private firm that collects the city’s garbage.

The target of the strike is Promotora Ambiental, S.A.B. de C.V. of Monterey, México, that signed a one-year contract with the municipality in late June 2012. The contract has a three-year extension option.

Under the agreement,  Promotora Ambiental leased the existing municipal garbage collecting vehicles. As a private firm, the company has more flexibility in operations, and city residents find they have garbage pickup at dawn even on legal holidays.

The job action is being engineered by the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, which said its members were declaring an indefinite strike.

Promotora Ambiental workers did not pick up garbage Monday, and parts of San José are decorated with piles of plastic bags.

The employees’ union said that the contract with the private firm has been in force since 2010, that the municipal equipment has deteriorated and that the firm is collecting millions to do the job. The union also expressed concern about the welfare of the company’s employees. They are mostly Nicaraguan.

Union representatives went to the fifth floor office of Mayor  Sandra García Pérez in the municipal building Monday morning, but there were no negotiations then.

The union said it finally met with municipal officials later in the afternoon at the  Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social. The outcome of that meeting was not known. However, the union said that the strike would not end until a satisfactory agreement is reached to eliminate what it said was the injuries done to municipal workers by the Mexican firm.

The private firm’s contract most likely will be up for renewal in June, and the public employees union is seeking to void the agreement then.

Promotora Ambiental has agreements all over México and also has operations in Belize and Panamá. News reports said that the firm is seeking to expand into South America.

By taking negotiations to the Ministerio de Trabajo, the public employees union has elevated the strike to a national concern and as a test of the new Luis Guillermo Solís administration. Representatives from the  Defensoría de los Habitantes were said to be present as were the minister,  Víctor Morales, and other ministry officials.

The employees union has another gripe with the municipality. In a letter to the mayor, union officials asked about two executive appointments that were made nearly a year ago. They called them irregular.

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