Unions call for major national strike Friday, Oct. 16

A coalition of unions has called for a national strike Oct. 16, a Friday.

This is the 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 union groups are well aware of the financial situation of the country with a mounting budget deficit. They have said in the past that international pressures are forcing the country into the austerity that the nation of Greece now faces.

The groups also have blamed the free trade treaty with the United States as a reason why there is low government income from imports by large corporations. The trade treaty lifted import duties on a number of products.

The union members also are concerned by several proposals in the legislature that would erode their rights, salaries and pensions.

There have been a number of media reports on excessive salaries in the public sector and financial flaws in the administration of public money.

The call for renationalization of the telecom industry also relates to the free trade treaty that caused the country to open mobile telephone service to private firms. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the big public telecom company, is having hard times facing the competition from private mobile providers. Public employees from the telecom sector also are represented in the union coalition, which may have from 80 to 100 separate unions.nonono100615

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