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Workers' unions to demonstrate against raise in Social Security rate

Workers’ unions will demonstrate next Monday in downtown San José to protest against the 1 percent increase in the amount deducted from salaries by Costa Rica’s Social Security System, or Caja. The change will take effect starting next month.

Members and leaders of the National Association of Public and Private Employees (ANEP), the country’s largest union, will gather at 7 a.m. in front of the Caja to demand that the institution’s board reverse its decision to raise the amount of the deduction to 10.16 percent.

Those funds are used to finance the Caja’s IVM, the country’s primary pension system.

The agency approved the increase in January, seeking to collect an additional ₡100 billion (some $173 million) per year. Caja Executive President María del Rocío Sáenz explained at the time that the extra resources were essential to guaranteeing the IVM’s sustainability.

Demonstration call

The Secretary General of ANEP, Albino Vargas, called on “workers’ unions members, public and private-sector workers and citizens in general to join the protest.”

Unions leaders hope to block vehicle passage along the capital’s Second Avenue, in front of Caja’s main building, to capture officials’ attention.

“We want them to listen to us and understand that citizens repudiate their actions,” Vargas said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

The union leader said the demonstration also aims to protest high pensions for a small group of bureaucrats. Among others, he referred to the Supreme Court President, Justice Zarella Villanueva, who retired last Friday and will receive a monthly pension of some ₡9.8 million ($17,000).

Vargas also said that if Caja officials refuse to address workers’ requests, they will return to the streets in a new demonstration and national strike on May 29.

Study

The Caja’s Board of Directors based their decision to raise the monthly salary deduction on results of a study conducted by experts from the University of Costa Rica’s School of Mathematics.

The results of the study, disclosed in December, recommended increasing workers’ monthly deduction to avoid bankruptcy of the IVM system, among other measures. It also recommended raising workers’ retirement age from 65 to 70.

The decision sparked general rejection from unions and even from President Luis Guillermo Solís. Casa Presidencial in January requested that the Caja Board suspend the increase until other measures could be evaluated and negotiated.

The Caja, however, as an autonomous agency, rejected the suggestion, as it is entitled to make its decisions without consulting the Executive Branch.

See a video of the unions’ leaders press conference:

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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