Union leaders call for general strike against Caja

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

“We have no option left but to take to the streets.”

That’s the position of Albino Vargas, the Secretary General of the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados, one of the countries biggest unions.

He uttered his words Thursday, a couple of hours after the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social agreed to continue with its plans to increase the contributions all workers should pay to their social security regime.

This issue has been an ongoing one of which A.M. Costa Rica recently reported in relation to doctors temporarily walking out of their hospitals for a few hours.

This was considered a warning on the part of union-members of what may come should the Caja’s Junta decide to raise the fee.

According to the agreement, workers will not escape the hike in the contributions.

Instead, they will have to pay 0.5 percent more money from the salary as of July and then face the other 0.5 percent increase in Jan. 2018.

The original decision by the Junta Directiva, unilaterally in charge of such decision-making without much room for outside consultation, called for the increase in full.

“We want Luis Guillermo Solís to remove the president of the Caja, María Sáenz, for betraying the working class and for betraying prior agreements where she promised to discuss the measure with other members of society,” Vargas said.

“Once again,  it is the working class who is supposed to pay for the Caja mismanagement, hurting the people who make the least money while some others have luxury pensions of up to $30,000 dollars a month,” Vargas added.

A general strike is another likely outcome after the decision from the Caja, according to Martin Chinchilla, Secretary General of the Unión de Empleados de la Caja y la Seguridad Social.

Chinchilla is also one of the leaders of the Bloque Unitario Sindical y Social Costarricense, a confederation of several unions, including that of teachers and other prominent entities within the Costa Rican State.

“We are deceived by the board of directors who have made this decision,” he said. “That pushes us toward further measures and to analyze if dialogue is the way to go.”

“We’ll be having a meeting next Monday afternoon to decide what are we going to do, but I can tell you this decision will not be tolerated,” added Chinchilla.

“We are confident all social justice fighters will join us and we are happy to say we are in close relation with the Confederación de Trabajadores Rerum Novarum,” he explained.

The confederation is a local Costa Rican worker’s syndicate with close ties to international and regional unions.

According to the Caja, this decision is essential to provide new funds to the pension regime, which experts from the Universidad de Costa Rica say will go broke by 2028 if no new income is delivered.

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