(QCOSTARICA) Best to avoid San Jose today, the first day of a combo pack of protests by several unions and groups against; Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.
The first is today, Monday, when workers of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) will strike to press management to halt a policy of savings, which includes layoffs.
According to the Frente Interno de Trabajadores del ICE , that groups six unions, the strike today will affect all work at agencies and branches of the state power and telecommunications, that will only respond to emergencies.
The workers will be gathering at the main ICE building in La Sabana and around 10:30am are expected to take to the streets of downtown San Jose, headed to Casa Presidencial in Zapote.
In June, the state institution released a document, saying employees of ICE and its subsidiaries (RACSA, CNFL and Cablevision) to lay off workers in “non-essential” posts. Manager and supervisors are instructed to identify non-essential staff and relocate them or proceed to layoff. The institution is also offering early retirement before August 31.
The crux of the standoff: the union sees the initiative as an “underhanded policy of layoffs”, while management sees it as a strategy of financial sustainability.
The union charges ICE president, Carlos Obregon, for “his inability to generate new services and fresh revenue”. Meanwhile, Obregon, in an internal memo to workers on Friday and leaked to the press, he sees the strike as unjustified pressure.
On Tuesday, taxi drivers will be taking to the streets in protest against the government, mainly for not shutting down the shared ride company, Uber, among other issues.
Over the weekend, the Ministerio de Seguridad (MSP) issued a strong warning against planned violence by some taxi drivers, the statement following reports of “terrorism threats” made on applications like Whatsapp, saying that besides blockades of major routes, there would be attacks against police and even civilians, that will include the burning of tires, breaking car windows and use of molotov cocktails.
For his part, President Luis Guillermo Solis on Friday said his administration will not tolerate any acts of violence and called from the taxi group to continued dialogue.
Ruben Vargas, secretary-general of the Union de Taxistas Costarricenses – the group spearheading the taxi drivers movement, said the MSP is trying to scare drivers from protesting. Vargas called the warning by the MSP “a show, a government tactic to discredit the planned protest, because this never imagined that groups of taxi drivers would be able to unite in a cause”.
And for Wednesday, it will be traffic police officials that will protest against the President, Luis Guillermo Solís, for the lack off staff, which exposes them constant violent situations.
The Transitos (as they are known in Costa Rica) protest will be different from that of Monday and Tuesday; one, that they will not block the streets; and two, the demonstration will brconcentrated in one olny location, holding up protest banners.
According to Homer Alfaro, head of the Unión La Unión Nacional de Técnicos Profesionales del Tránsito (Unateprot), “starting at 3:00pm we will be at the ‘puente platina‘ with some 50 banners in demonstration without encroaching the right of way…we hope for and request the silent support of those (officials) workings that afternoon. Those with guts to join us, if not, not to complain.”
On Saturday night, an irate driver fired on a Transito during an anti street racing operation in Naranjo.
Alfaro said the lack of staff means that traffic officials have to work alone and many do not want to continue being at risk. The union leader added that many of (traffic officials) do not raise their voice to claim their rights.
“We are now more (voicing concern) and are stronger, we demand our right to life, our children are waiting for us, our wives and our mothers and fathers also await us. We want the people to know our discontent,” said Vargas.