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Public employees, porteadores to demonstrate in Costa Rica’s capital

August 19, 2015

Public workers’ unions will take to the streets of the capital’s downtown on Thursday morning to protest against proposed legislation that, they say, will affect their salaries.

Unions leaders on Tuesday said they expect the arrival of some 22 buses packed with demonstrators from 80 workers’ unions from accross the country.

The “March for Social Justice,” as unions are calling it, will begin at 10 a.m. in San José’s central park. Demonstrators will then march down to Second Avenue and will end in front of the Legislative Assembly.

There, union leaders will deliver a manifesto against lawmakers who support the adoption of a bill, the “Public Employment Law,” which proposes to eliminate public workers’ extra-wage benefits and bonuses.

The bill is one of two drafted by legislators and Finance Ministry officials from the previous administration of President Laura Chinchilla to regulate or eliminate those benefits. At the time, ministry officials argued that some 60 percent of the national budget annually went to bureaucrats’ salaries and extra-salary benefits.

The bill was originally tabled, but is now being revived by a group of legislators.

Thursday’s demonstration will mainly affect public schools and hospitals, but will also impact customer service departments in various agencies and the Limón port. Dock workers say they’re planning a work slowdown, or tortuguismo, as it’s known in Spanish.

Gilberto Cascante, president of the National Association of Educators, the teachers’ union, said 95 preschools, elementary schools and high schools across the country planned to suspend classes, as well as a large number of public daycare centers, or Cen-CINAIs.

Luis Chavarría, secretary general of the Social Security System worker’s union, said patient services at public hospitals will be reduced, but emergency rooms and clinical laboratories will operate normally.

Unions had already protested against the proposed reforms earlier this year and are planning another, larger demonstration for October, leaders said Tuesday.

Porteadores also plan to protest

Traffic jams are also expected outside of San José’s downtown, as private chauffeurs, or porteadores, confirmed Wednesday evening that they also will hold protests starting at 8 a.m. They’re upset about a recent government policy reducing their work permits by half.

The Public Transport Council (CTP), which regulates public transportation in Costa Rica, recently decided to renew only 1,324 out of 2,562 previously-existing permits for porteadores, setting off a war between the government and the drivers.

Recommended: Police to investigate alleged threats by private chauffeurs against traffic officers

Traffic Police Director Mario Calderón said an operation to regulate vehicle traffic in the capital will begin at 6 a.m. and will continue until 2 p.m. He also advised motorists to avoid downtown San José during these hours.

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