The issues surrounding Agesoc, Cali’s city hall mega-contractor

When the scandal broke a decade ago about the labor exploitation of health care workers through the Associated Labor Cooperatives (CTAs), a multi-million dollar business of extra revenue in electoral politics was exposed.

The power of the CTA was so great that in the legislative elections of 2010 it was enough for the owner of Multisalud Cooperative, Juan Carlos Rizeto, to win a seat in the Senate for the PIN party, which through Juan Carlos Martínez already controlled the Government of del Valle with Juan Carlos Abadía and the City Hall of Cali with Jorge Ivan Ospina, who handed over the health management to the CTA.

In order not to disappear due to labor problems before the signing of the FTA with the USA, in May 2012 they changed to a more bombastic name: “trade union associations”. The valley has two of the largest in the country: Asstracud and Agesoc.

The latter is precisely the one that the General Prosecutor’s Office named this week as the largest contractor in the current government of Jorge Ivan Ospina, who in two and a half years executed 1,176 contracts for
$133.21 billion.

Ospina’s justification to explain the Attorney General’s findings is that Agesoc contracted for what was needed for pandemic vaccination and for the supply of what EPS did not.

“This was an action carried out by the ESE in the face of the lack of EPS, who did not go to vaccinate at home, that they did not vaccinate at night and that they did not put the doctors to take care of it, assuming that they were risking their own lives,” said Ospina in an interview with Yamit Amat.

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Claims that did not go down well with the EPS directors who felt that Ospina lacked the truth. “His statements embarrassed me and I want to believe that out of desperation he tried to justify himself by distorting the work of EPS; if it wasn’t, it showed a lack of knowledge of how EPSs work with the Ministry of Health,” said the manager of one of the private EPSs based in Cali, without giving his name.

For her part, Lina Vanessa Morales, manager of the risk and control departments of the EPS de la Gente, indicated that the mayor lacked a little information “because all the intersectoral work between the ESE, the Secretariat of Health and the EPS of the contributions and subsidized regime, since the beginning of the pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, the first thing we did was to listen to the call of the Minister of Health, Mierlandi Torres, to work together for the city and a cooperation agreement was created to unite the strategies for the intervention of the population and not have difficulties in customer service,” explained Morales.

Neither associations nor unions

There are no few accusations against trade unions such as Agesoc, Mayor Ospina’s biggest contractor, which outsources everything from nurses, stretcher bearers and specialist doctors to general service assistants and administrative staff in medical centres.

Although the members of these “non-profit” unions are supposed to be participating contracting partners, the precarious conditions under which their members work are an open secret within the health care union.

“Under this rubbish contract model, between 78% and 80% of health workers are,” Darwin Duque of the Health Workers’ Union (Anthoc) said recently, and that staff are hired for three or four months and fired for the ups and downs of politics.

“If anyone investigates these trade unions, they will find that they are not created by a worker. They are political actors who know that there is a lot of money around it; and we condemned that these workers must take from their salary at the end of the month to pass the quota to a politician or the one who hires ”, condemns Duque.

In an anonymous letter, alleged hospital officials asked the comptroller to investigate in December 2019 the way Agesoc employs staff.

According to obstetrician-gynecologist Jorge Enrique Enciso, president of the Colombian Federation of Medical Unions, Agesoc is a paper union run by politicians or regional bosses that does not outsource but rather mediates labor.

“It says it’s a union, but for a man to be a member of a union, he must do so freely and voluntarily, and no one is there because they want to; this is because anyone who is healthy and does not belong to Agesoc is not given a job,” says Dr. Encizo.

Figures from the Chamber of Commerce of Agesoc show that in ten years since its establishment, it has signed more than four thousand contracts, not only in health care, worth more than 3 billion dollars.

What hospitals are looking for when they hire unions is to reduce the workload to avoid paying welfare benefits to medical staff. El País tried to speak to Agesoc’s legal representative, Alba Ruth Libreros, but did not receive a response.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller General in 2019 believed that these union contracts are almost impossible to audit because they are concluded by the hour “and this leaves in doubt the real value of the contract if there was an audit and if the most favorable offer was chosen.”

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The worst part of the union organization that the mayor protects and supports is carried by the workers, says a union member. “If they hire an hour of work for $1,000 pesos in the hospital, they take 7% of the worker’s administration; They pay him $930 pesos and report only $350 pesos as salary and pay parafiscal on that basis. The rest is a bonus and there is no labor contract with the hospital or the union.”

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