After nine hours of talks, representatives of the worker unions and CCSS (Caja) authorities did not reach any agreement. The strike in hospitals and health centers will continue today Saturday.

Edwin Solano, (white coat) president of the Unión Médica, after the ‘fruitless’ meeting with representatives of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS).

“Unfortunately we have not reached an agreement at this time, tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 am We will have a new meeting at the headquarters of the Unión Médica Nacional (National Medical Union) to see if there is a viable proposal,” said Marta Rodríguez, deputy secretary of the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja (Undeca), shortly before 7 pm Friday.

Thus, the dialogue will continue but without lifting the strike at State hospitals and clinics.

Rodriguez said the strike (that began on Monday) will continue over the weekend and next week if an agreement is not reached.

The union leader said they are willing to talk around the clock this weekend. According to her, they gave the Caja time to consider its plans.

Edwin Solano, president of the Unión Médica acknowledged that the CCSS proposed to appeal to the administrative contentious courts to clarify their differences, also raised the possibility of arbitration.

The proposals, Solano admitted, were rejected, they (the unions) will only accept that the agreement signed in February with the CCSS’s executive president, Román Macaya, remain in effect.

That agreement maintained the calculation of incentives (bonuses and other financial benefits) without the changes established by the Ley de Fortalecimiento de las Finanzas Públicas or Plan Fiscal (Tax Reform), effective as of December 4.

“They have to respect the agreement of February 20,” said Solano.

According to the union leader, the only solution is for the Government to issue a decree that repeals two others published in May and July, which reaffirmed that salary incentives will cease to be calculated in percentage terms and will become a fixed amount. The intention is to curb the exponential growth of these bonuses due to the cost they represent for State finances.

Strike will continue, union leaders stay firm on the decision that the government respect the deal signed with the Caja last February

Solano said that “the Caja and the Executive Branch has closed ranks … whatever, the agreements must be respected.”

For his part, President Carlos Alvarado warned that “what is law is law and must be respected.”

Román Macaya, presdient of the CCSS

Román Macaya explained that the main proposal they made was to go to arbitration, considering that it is neutral and can be resolved within four to six months. In this alternative dispute resolution mechanism, each party proposes an arbitrator, even accepting the possibility of losing.

However, the unions rejected the proposal. For the CCSS official, the continuation of the strike is unacceptable.

“We will not get give on looking for options to get this on track in a more peaceful way, where patients are not affected,” he added.

An impossible task

Besides the two sides being at odds on the points of agreement, the task of coming to a quick solution is hampered by the fact that there 17 labor organizations representing striking workers, calling themselves the Frente Sindical de Defensa de la CCSS (Trade Union Front of Defense of the CCSS).

The front is made up of, among others, the Unión Nacional de Empleados de la Caja (Undeca), the Sindicato de Profesionales en Ciencias Médicas (Siprocimeca), the Sindicato Nacional de Enfermería (Sinae) and the Unión Médica Nacional.

The strike movement began on August 5. It was planned that it would only last two days, but it was extended three more days with the possibility of being indefinite, as union leaders warned.

Public health workers are represented by 17 different unions

The strike by the numbers

According to data provided by the Caja on Friday, of the 149,333 medical appointments scheduled for the week, 57,536 (39%) were canceled.

Of the 31,504 programmed surgeries, only 13,888 were performed.

On average, 20% of the 57,300 employees joined the strike during the week.