Security, cleaning and maintenance employees will likely be joined by nutrition, nursing and administrative personnel at Hospital La Anexion in striking, along with local and national union officials, starting this Tuesday, September 8.
The cause for the strike is that the main offices for both the hospital and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS – Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social) planto hire private companies for security, cleaning and maintenance in the facility’s new medical tower.
The strikers hope that the hiring will be done directly through the CCSS instead of through private companies. They allege that contracting services through third parties raises costs, and that the companies do not respect workers’ social rights.
“It’s not true that it’s cheaper,” said Deivis Ovares, General Fiscal for UNDECA. “If something has the goal of profit, it can’t be less expensive than something that has social purposes; it has to involve worse conditions for the workers.”
They also argue that the CCSShires a majority of people from the community, while companies bring personnel from other areas.
Ovares assured The Voice that the request to hire services for the tower through third parties has already been approved, and that for them the decision represents the first steptowards the privatization of medical services.
In this particular case, Ovares explained that they heard of the intention to hire private companies in January, and that in April of this year they sent a letter to the CCSS requesting more information on the matter. To date they have not received any response.
Union members are convinced that the hiring through third parties will be widened to other groups in the hospital, such as the departments of administration, nursing, nutrition and medical records, as the orders come from the hospital’s medical office.
Medical Director Assures that Services Will Continue during Strike
If the strike happens, Anner Angulo, the hospital’s medical director, stated that, “We are organizing ourselves to guarantee that services continue and ensure that the least number of patients are affected.”
Angulo also said that he is surprised that a strike is planned for Tuesday the 8th when “there is a discussion forum on Wednesday, September 9; I don’t know why they’re going to strike before the forum.”
Regarding the accusations about privatizing services, Angulo responded that the orders come from the leadership and not from him, and that it “is not certain” that the hope is to privatize the hospital.
“It isn’t certain, because we aren’t firing a single cleaning or security employee,” said Angulo, adding that, “What we are guaranteeing is that when we open the tower, people will have the conditions for its full functioning.”
Asked whether the companies are going to hire people from Nicoya or other cantons, Angulo said that the companies are the ones to decide.
“They [the companies] first look for local people [but] they have the freedom to hire the people they believe to be appropriate.”
The new medical tower, spanning some 8000 square meters, will be handed over “provisionally” this November, so that the hospital can begin to install machinery. It is hoped that the tower will be turned over entirely in January 2016.
The hiring of medical personnel will begin in January, through both the private companies and directly through the CCSS.
Regarding possible penalties for those employees who join the strike, Angulo said that it will be “determined by labor courts.”