Angry San José health care workers find unlikely ally in Caribbean dock workers

November 27, 2013

Members of the Atlantic Port Authority Workers’ Union (Sintrajap) on Wednesday closed both Moín and Limón docks, the two Costa Rican ports on the Caribbean coast.

The closure is an act of solidarity with angry health care workers from San José, according to union leader Carlos Brenes. We’re not exactly sure of the link between the dock union and health care workers, but both of these groups of public sector employees tend to use economic disruption tactics to get what they want. In this case, the health care workers don’t want to be privatized.  

After a contract with the state University of Costa Rica (UCR) expired, the Social Security System, or Caja, turned over the administration of the 45 clinics to the Iberoamerican University (UNIBE) a private college. Now clinic workers fear losing their jobs.

They have been staging strikes and public demonstrations to oppose Caja’s decision since last week. On Tuesday, Marjorie Azofeifa, an EBAIS worker, started a hunger strike in a tent outside UCR’s administrative offices.

“We are against the EBAIS privatization […] We do not want any more concessions in the public sector, and also we are asking the government to improve docks infrastructure,” SINTRAJAP spokesman José Luis Castillo told the media in Limón.

Caja and UNIBE already signed the new administration contract, and university officials said they will hire most of the current workers. However, all clinics are now closed and patients have been forced to seek treatment at other public hospitals and clinics in the capital.

On Wednesday morning, two ships were waiting to dock in Moín and unload cargo, while a row of at least 30 trucks idled outside the Limón dock, unable to deliver products for export.

Last Nov. 11, another dock workers’ strike prevented the docking of a cruise ship to Limón, leading to losses of ₡48 million ($96,000), according to the Atlantic Port Authority. Near 80 percent of Costa Rica’s exports are shipped through Limón docks.

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