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Ecuador: Janitors Write Demands in Blood

Associated Press
July 4th, 2000

QUITO, Ecuador -- A group of striking public hospital janitors used their own blood Tuesday, drawn with hypodermic needles, to write out their demands for salary increases, better working conditions and greater job security.

About six janitors, demanding 50 percent pay hikes, wrote their demands on white towels in front of Congress. Three nurses were on hand to assist in drawing the blood.

''We want dignified salaries,'' said Carlos Galvan, who led the demonstration. ''We want money, funds so that hospitals can function with dignity to the benefit of our country.''

The janitors earn an average monthly salary of about $50.

Some 15,000 public hospital workers, including janitors, administrators and technicians, have been on partial strike since late April. The strike has been carefully orchestrated to avoid interfering with emergency medical services.

Striker Maria Perez said that ''with this blood, we want to bring greater attention to the poor who have nowhere else to go, other than the public hospitals'' for medical attention.

President Gustavo Noboa said Monday that the cash-strapped nation does not have the resources to increase hospital spending. Meanwhile, Labor Minister Martin Insua pledged to negotiate a solution to the strike.

Public school teachers ended a 46-day walkout on Thursday after the government agreed to increase starting pay, which had stood at dlrs 40, by 81 percent and promised not to privatize the public school system.

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