TIJUANA (Border Report) — Members of a union that represents about 8,000 hospital and healthcare workers in the Mexican border state of Baja California are threatening to walk off their jobs unless they receive wages and other compensation by the end of today.
The employees claim they haven’t been paid recently and say they are also due vacation compensation and end-of-the-year bonuses.
And unless they get paid, they will initiate the process of walking off their jobs including the caring for COVID-19 patients in hospitals.
The secretary of health for the state, Alonso Pérez Rico, has said the workers will get paid, adding they’ve already gotten their money for the past two weeks and will get the next payment on time.
“They will get paid what’s due, they will receive what they deserve through the end of the year,” he said.
The state is paying out 90 million pesos or about $4.5 million to the workers every two weeks, according to Pérez Rico.
Rumblings started earlier this week when the employees began publicizing their lack of compensation and bonuses. Workers expressed dismay and frustration over not being paid accordingly.
The workers who brought up the lack of pay include those who recently treated Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla who required hospitalization after being diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks ago.
Upon his release from the hospital, Bonilla praised hospital staff for their relentless work ethic saying they deserved bonuses for their hard work, but a week later, the state did not pay the hospital workers.
Bonilla claims the state is in a deep financial crisis saying previous administrations left the state in dire straits.
“We can’t have a short memory, we received a broken state, in great debt, and we’re trying to pay everyone,” Bonilla said. “What’s happening is that everyone got used to getting paid on time, but remember we are paying out millions, this is a state that is completely broken.”
Bonilla defended the pause in payments to the hospital workers.
“The state has been affected financially because of what’s happened the last 30 years when our communities have been burdened by bad governments, this can’t be fixed in one year,” he said.
Bonilla pointed out how the state is still in the process of paying off a debt to 21,000 teachers in the state, some of whom say they had not gotten paid since August.
“People need to know this, at the end of the day we will pay everyone by the end of the year. We are refinancing our debt, which allowed us to pay the teachers,” Bonilla said. “We are collecting debts owed to the state, and we knew the pandemic was going to affect us due to lack of income from businesses and other areas, but we can’t let it get to the point where we can’t pay our personnel.”
Earlier this week, the mayor of Tijuana accused Bonilla’s administration of withholding 600 million pesos ($30 million) earmarked for the city from the federal government.
Bonilla says they are trying to get the money to Tijuana.
“We are being very careful with our money and how we’re spending it,” he said.