Representatives of the public health sector unions, government authorities and the Caja Costarricense Seguro Social (CSS) signed the agreement on Monday, following 42 hours of meeting, to end the strike at public hospitals and clinics that started a week ago.

In the photo, Labor Minister Steven Núñez (left), Román Macaya, executive president of the Caja, Edwin Solano, president of the National Medical Union, and Marta Rodríguez, deputy secretary of Undeca. Photo: Rafael Pacheco

In the deal, the Government and the CCSS pledged to keep intact the bonuses of the 57,000 employees of the Caja, waiting for a judicial tribunal to resolve the wage dispute.

In return, the “Frente Sindical”, representing 17 trade unions, called an end to the strike that was originally to be for 48 hours, then extended another 72 hours, that turned into eight straight days, and agreed to return to work today, Tuesday.

The strike originated because the Tax Reform (Plan Fiscal), approved by the Legislative Assembly in December 2018, mandates converting the percentage payment of bonuses into a nominal payment, that is, a fixed amount, to avoid the exponential growth of that remuneration amid the deficit affecting the Treasury.

Despite this, on February 20, Román Macaya, CCSS president, signed a document in which he undertakes to respect the percentage payments, despite the tax reform law – Ley de Fortalecimiento de las Finanzas Públicas – states otherwise.

Now, both Macaya and the trade unions signed an agreement to have the dispute  settled by the to the Tribunal Contencioso-Administrativo (Contentious-Administrative Court) with the case filing an injurious process (proceso de lesividad in Spanish) with “the objective of clarifying whether the changes in the payment of annuities and incentives implemented by the tax reform law applies to this institution”.

Both sides have undertaken to respect the judicial resolution when the sentence is final, whether the February agreement is validated or annulled.

¡Sí se pudo, sí se pudo! (Yes we could, yes we could!), a group of strikers shouted outside the main Caja building, in San José. Photo: Rafael Pacheco

“Today we can announce, after many complex, long days of negotiation that we have reached an agreement that brings peace to the institution, stability to the country and patient care.

 

“It has not been an easy process, but it has been a transparent process and a process that seeks the common good, that seeks to protect the right to health, the right to life, acquired rights and the stability of the institution,” said Román Macaya, executive president of the CCSS.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), hospitals and clinics will be operating normally,” Macaya said.

Striking workers in Siquirres raising their hands in victory!

Representing the central government in the process were the Ministro de la Presidencia (Chief of Staff), Victor Morales and the Minister of Labor, Steven Núñez.

During the eight-day strike, 80,000 medical appointments and more than 3,000 scheduled surgeries were canceled.

In addition, the family of the 48-year-old Mario Castro Calvo, reported his death was due to lack of prompt attention at the Alajuela hospital.

At least 25% of CCSS workers joined the work stoppage movement, according to figures from the CCSS,  none of which will have their pay reduced for the days not worked, based on the deal signed to end the strike.

Mario Ruiz, medical director of the CCSS, that services starting today (Tuesday) will resume and that all the medical staff will be doing their best to catch up.

“To the patients we tell them that from tomorrow all the services will be open … please show up for your appointments … this movement represented the loss of approximately 80,000 appointments, 15,000 procedures, about 3000 surgeries … we will do everything possible to reschedule them,”  Ruiz said.