The Metro Bus drivers forced to abort a work stoppage determined illegal by Panama's Minister of Labor, received $150 in bonuses instead of their promised monthly salary increases. Thirty dollars of this $150 award was based on individual merit and good driving record. These drivers currently are paid $580 per month, and had hoped to achieve a salary increase to $800 per month.
This morning, the general manager for MiBus, Miguel Cardona, was interviewed on TVN Canal 2. He adeptly navigated around the direct questions posed by the interviewer and skillfully painted the rosiest picture of both the corporate enterprise and the current status of collaborative negotiations forced upon the dissenting faction. He claimed that the administration and labor had been in negotiations for 12 days and the company was earnestly working at addressing labor complaints. He mentioned the opportunity bus drivers will have in the future to form a cooperative, receive health and life insurance, enjoy better education for their children, have access to scholarships, enjoy "game rooms", etc. and mentioned all these were benefits that needed to be figured into an employee's salary. He stated the package being worked on cost the company two million dollars and is designed "specifically for the benefit of the workers".
Panama's public transit system was implemented two years ago, and TVN's interviewer pointed out that the conditions the company was to have met for 2013 have not been reached. Mr. Cardona defended the company's position by stating that the projections are good and that with any project of this magnitude, Panama's being one of the world's largest in proportion to the size of the city, is behind due to unforeseen obstacles along the way, however the project is still moving along and remains uncompleted. The interviewer stressed the company was behind by a year, which Mr. Cardona acknowledged.
Approximately $300 million dollars have already been assigned for the project, some 180 million of which comes from foreign investment, and the company is working to attract additional investment from a Swiss bank, presently evaluating the circumstances. Twelve hundred buses have been calculated for the project. Currently around 900 are available and somewhere between 800 and 900 are actually in operation.