/** reg.guatemala: 183.0 **/
Cerigua Weekly Briefs, No. 2, 8 January 2000
Guatemala City, January 8. Hundreds of parents who depend on state- subsidized daycare found the doors of many centers closed today when they arrived to leave their children after the Christmas holidays.
At least 12 of the nation's 52 centers suspended their services this week without notice and without any indication of when they plan to re-open. Government officials say the closures are due to a restructuring that seeks to replace the current personnel with more qualified staff. Workers charge that the government is forcing them out with a "voluntary" retirement plan in order to privatize the system.
"There was a lot of pressure when we came to get our salaries and our December bonus... because if we didn't sign up for voluntary retirement we didn't get our checks," said childcare worker Ingrid de Villacorta.
"I'd like them to be honest with those of us who didn't choose volunteer retirement, whether they're going to throw us out or whether they'll let us stay, because it's not fair the way they've got us now," added fellow employee Marina Garrido.
Meanwhile, the parents who use the service must seek alternative care for their children or give up their jobs. At five quetzales (less than US$1) a month per child the centers are by far the cheapest option open to working parents who are not able to leave their children with relatives during the day.
"The daycare service is cheap and fulfills the social purpose for which it was created, but it looks like someone in the government doesn't understand this situation and the measure's impact," said Celsa Perez, daycare user and mother of three.