QCOSTARICA – The strike by public sector workers that began Tuesday will continue today Wednesday, affecting mainly public health services and schools.
Many on Tuesday requiring a medical exam, surgery or prescriptions filled at public medical centres had to go home. Or, in the best case, waited much longer than usual.
“It’s been a success. President (Luis Guillermo) Solis should understand that the people are not happy with his administration,” said Gilberto Cascante, the president of the Asociación Nacional de Educadores (ANDE) teachers union, one of the three major teachers union joining the strike. The others are the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja y de la Seguridad Social (Undeca) and the Asociación de Profesores de Segunda Enseñanza (APSE), among others.
He said that the unions are ready to sit down to discuss things with the president, but he added that President Luis Guillermo Solis has never set a date to do so.
The two day strike was called by the Bloque Unitario Sindical y Social Costarricense (Bussco), grouping a number public sector unions.
Noticeably missing from bloc were the unions representing ICE and other state institution workers.
Eugenia María Villalta, medical director of Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) said that about of hospitals and clinics joined the protest. Carlos Alvarado, Minister of Labour, estimated that only in the case, the movement caused losses of ¢2.8 billion colones.
In the case of schools, the Ministry of Public Education (MEP), estimated that 70% of teachers were not in the classroom
At some schools, like the Liceo Mauro Fernández Acuña, in Tibás, 90% of teachers did not give classes, according to school principal, Martin Pinnock.
Many parents took their children to school, as normal, unaware if their children’s school was open and if there were teachers. In many cases the parents took their children home after being informed of the situation.
The protest began in Parque La Merced on the west side of downtown San Jose, in front of the San Juan de Dios hospital. From there the thousands marched to the Legislative Assembly, which was protected by police, mostly female officers.
Deploying female officers in this kind of demonstration in Costa Rica has been effecting in avoiding violent incidents.
Among the demands of the public service workers are a respect for labour rights, defense of the CCSS, defense of the education budget and opposition to sales and income tax increases, among other things.
Salary hikes, land for peasants, for the rich to pay taxes and access to water as a public right, are also on the list of demands.
The protest is days ahead of the annual state of the nation report by President Solis. Usually the report is handed down on May 1, Día Internacional de los Trabajadores (Labour Day) in Costa Rica and the election of a new Legislative President for the coming year. However, this year, the President has said he will deliver his report on Monday, May 2.
May 1 is a holiday and it is celebrated the day it falls on. That is to day, since it this year is on a Sunday, it is not moved to the following Monday or any other day.