Solís seeks talks with unions that call for national strike Oct. 16

President Luis Guillermo Solís said Tuesday that he is willing to discuss grievances with unions that have called for a national strike Oct. 16.

Meanwhile another group of unions have set Oct. 26 as a day for yet another general strike. These unions are mainly of employees from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A. and Limón dock workers.

And yet another group, mainly those from the far left, plan a similar action in November.

Solís had just returned Tuesday from a 10-day visit mainly at the United Nations in New York. He was asked about the strike call at a press conference following the weekly meeting of his cabinet, the Consejo de Gobierno.

He said he did not have contact with the union leaderships because of his U.S. trip. However, as he has done many times, he suggested dialogue as a way to resolve differences.

The Oct. 16 strike that has been long promised by mostly public employees to protest changes in the way salaries are computed, the cost of living, taxes and other actions the group deems to be neoliberal.

The announcement also called for the renationalization of telecommunications.

The announcement came from the Bloque Unitario Sindical y Social Costarricense, which has been designated by two other major labor organizations as the entity that sets the date and time of the strike.

The decision was made at the facilities of one of the other organizations, the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.

The call for a national strike follows a march by the same groups Aug. 20 that brought thousands into the streets. At that time, union officials presented a document to lawmakers and said that a national strike would be forthcoming.

The protest also is about current social problems such as unemployment, lack of housing, low salaries and the imposition of unjust public policies.

The Caja employees union has a long history of pointing out deficiencies in the national public health system.

Representatives of the Bloque Unitario Sindical met with President Luis Guillermo Solís as soon as he took office. However, it appears now that the groups do not see him as an ally.

The basic issue is the rising governmental deficit that makes union members concerned about possible salary cuts and layoffs.

The call for a strike Oct. 26 comes from the organization known as Frente Patria Justa, which is associated with the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos.

A private group also has taken to the streets seeking the privatization of the state refinery.

Patria Justa also has submitted a petition to the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones asking for a referendum on raising the nation’s minimum salaries. If approved, the organization will have to collect 160,000 signatures.

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