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Our View: Two-tier Gesy confirmed after government caves in to SGOs

AS EXPECTED the government gave in to the unions of the semi-governmental organisations (SGOs) and will permit them to have health insurance for treatment that is not covered by the national health scheme Gesy, such as dental and psychological care; the same will apply for employees of local government.

A couple of work stoppages by the EAC workers was all that was needed for the government to cave in, despite finance ministry opposition to this preferential treatment.

EAC unions had claimed that the money saved by the authority, which was paying for private health insurance for all its employees, by joining Gesy should be used to offer health cover for treatment not covered by the scheme. The money allocated for private health insurance belonged to the workers, unions argued, and what was left over after the Gesy contributions were paid should be used to benefit workers, hence the “supplementary cover”.

Privileged treatment of the overpaid SGO and local government workers has become a special right by government decree which essentially asserts that some workers are more equal than others. If Cyta and the EAC were private companies they could certainly offer supplementary cover to their staff, but they belong to the state which should not sanction preferential treatment when there is a national health for everyone. This is a blatant case of the government openly conceding that Gesy cover is not good enough for a certain group of employees and obliging state organisations and municipalities to pay more than they are legally obliged to pay under the law.

If the government had respect for the democratic principle of the equal treatment of all citizens, it would not even have discussed this demand of the unions. It would have understood that allowing state organisations, which are under its control, to offer more comprehensive health cover than what is available to the rest of society was politically, legally and morally indefensible. The money used for “supplementary cover” is coming to these state-owned organisations and in the case of local government directly from the taxpayer.

Before even introducing the second phase of Gesy the government has given its blessing to the creation of two schemes – a grade one scheme for the privileged SGO and local government workers and grade two scheme for the rest of the population. And the civil servants, who are also accustomed to being more equal than others, have not had their say yet because they are awaiting a court decision over whether they are obliged to contribute towards their healthcare. Until 2013 they were entitled to free healthcare without contributing anything with the taxpayer picking up the bill.

We should not be surprised if these super-privileged workers also demand to join the grade one scheme now the government has set the precedent.

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