Jan 31, 2013

Update on Strike Situation

(photo by TVN noticias)

Inocente Guerra, representative for the bus drivers of Metro Bus announced yesterday that the operators' strike would proceed as planned at midnight on 1/31/13 because neither the company nor the government responded to their demands for increased salaries, additional vehicles, and other conditions.  

In the afternoon of Wednesday, 1/30/13, however, Roberto Henriquez, minister of the Presidency, sent out a Twitter notification that the Minister of Labor declared illegal the request for salary increase and /or subsequent work stoppage. The message also indicated the government would guarantee the operation of the bus system. 

At midnight, Thursday morning, the bus drivers carried through on the threat and blocked the entrance and exit of the bus depot to prevent the vehicles from being taken out and put into circulation.  At 3:50 am, the protestors were met by the tactical squad of the National Police, who threw tear gas and arrested six people.  

At some point in the melee, 30 buses were vandalized and the spokesman for MiBus reports damages to the tune of  90 thousand dollars for broken glass, sabotaged electromechanical equipment and destruction of ignition keys.

Today the bus system is in normal operation and some 840 buses are circulating.

ADDENDUM:  According to newcasts this evening, the public transport system is not in normal operation. There were long waits and lines in many sectors of the city.  The changeover from the private, colorful, plentiful, somewhat dangerous Diablos Rojos to the conventional national bus system has been fraught with disappointment and complaints from the average, bus riding Panamanian citizen.  Complaints center around long waits from an insufficient quantity of vehicles and infrequent buses on busy routes.  Apparently MiBus,  the foreign company providing Metro Service in Panama City,  has failed to comply with promises made to the drivers to increase their salaries to $ 800 per month.  One man on the street complained that foreign companies come into Panama, seize all the government contracts, and then "do whatever they want" to the Panamanian public and workers.   Judging from the destruction carried out in the last 24 hours, the matter hasn't been amicably settled and may rear it's ugly head again.