Doctors walk out on hospitals in temporary protest

By Rommel Téllez
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Health workers have also joined the protests against the raise of contributions to the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social.

On Tuesday, 80 percent of services provided by Hospital México were stopped for about three hours in the morning, after a call for a partial strike was issued by the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.

This led to the cancelation of 25 out of 58 surgeries already scheduled and problems with the administrative offices.

According to the union, 125 hospital workers joined the strike.

A similar protest happened at Hospital Calderón Guardia where doctors were said to have walked out of the hospital for a few hours.

Some of them also went to the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social headquarters in Avenida Segunda, San José.

They stood in front of the building for about an hour and then left a letter to Caja Director María del Rocío Salas demanding a stop to the hike in contributions.

These actions were small sparks of a potentially major strike to come and meant to threaten authorities of the Caja with harsher action to come.

At the beginning of the year, the board of directors of the Caja announced that all workers enrolled in the social security system were going to get a percent raised in fees deducted from their paychecks to fight the financial hardships that the social security giant’s pension plan is going through.

The decision was taken without any consultation to worker’s representatives nor government officials.

As a result, several unions have sworn to fight the decision as they consider it unfair, unilateral and arbitrary.

“Workers are not responsible for the mismanagement of funds, however they want to get in our pockets and have us pay while the employer’s are not affected by the decision,”said Albino Vargas, secretary general of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados.

The hike in the contributions was supposed to apply to salaries paid today, however, a special commission appointed by the Caja to study the case postponed it for further analysis.

According to a press release sent by the Bloque Unitario Sindical y Social Costarricense, a union confederation, the protests and possible strikes will continue to occur and grow if the Caja’s authorities do not agree to a more open dialogue in regards the hike.

That means more hospitals and clinics could be on strike at any given moment, since the biggest medical unions belong to the Bloque.

According to Costa Rican law, strikes in the health field are allowed as long as basic services are not interrupted.

One of those services considered vital are the emergency units.

Only if a court of labor considers the strike to be causing damage to the common good would the workers potentially face penalties, including job loss.

Last year, a study from the Universidad de Costa Rica determined that contribution should go up to 27 percent of the salaries to keep the financial health of the social security system, including its pension plans.

If such measures are not taken, the researchers estimate the system could go broke by 2028.

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