26/12/2012 - Hundreds of users were awaiting Metro buses at stops throughout Panama City even though a strike of bus drivers had been lifted earlier in the day.
At 5 p.m., more than 12 hours after the strike had started, stops were full of people who were waiting for buses to get home.
Mi Bus, the company that runs the Metro system, reported that it was sending as many buses out to service as possible to restore regular service.
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, drivers and representatives of Mi Bus reached an agreement, which ended the strike.
The company agreed not to take any reprisals against the workers who were involved in the strike, and also agreed to review the cases of workers dismissed Dec. 1.
The two sides also agreed to form a commission to look at 10 points that remained undecided. The talks will be mediated by the Ministry of Labor.
The talks will continue Jan. 10 at 10 a.m., the company said.
Mi Bus company representatives and Metro Bus drivers began the negotiations in the morning.
At about 1:15 p.m. drivers left the dialogue after insisting on the company signing a document promising not to retaliate against the drivers as a condition for proceeding.
After the start of a dialogue today, striking Metro Bus drivers lifted the work stoppage that started at 5 a.m. today.
At the Metro Bus headquarters at Ojo de Agua, a meeting began at 10:20 a.m. among representatives of the drivers, the government, and Mi Bus, the company that operates the system in Panama and San Miguelito.
The meeting was attended by drivers from El Chorrillo, Ojo de Agua, Albrook, 24 de Diciembre, Los Pueblos, Santa Librada and La Cabima.
While the government is represented by Deputy Minister of Labor Darío Falcón, and the company by the general manager of Mi Bus, Miguel Cardona.
The first point raised by workers was the reinstatement of the dismissed operators and a pledge to take no reprisals against those who are participating in the work stoppage.
Mi Bus demanded that the strike be suspended so that users would not be hurt by "internal problems."
Metro Bus drivers warned that if an agreement is not reached today, they could go back on strike tomorrow.
Jorge Pérez, spokesman for drivers, expressed that they will remain unemployed until the dialogue begins and the government complies with what was promised to drivers.
"The strike is for 24 hours and we are going to stick by that," commented Pérez.
He asserted that Mi Bus had promised a monthly wage of $880 to drivers, yet is only them between $540 and $560.
He also said the company has not repaired the buses or provided a decent service.
"Every day we are going get worse because the buses are not serviced and the company has failed to meet expectations," he said.
Mi Bus operators who went on strike at 5 a.m. today have indicated that they will remain unemployed "whatever happens."
"We will remain steadfast until the ultimate consequences," said driver Jorge Pérez, who said that his companions do not fear that they can be dismissed.
Pérez explained that operators who are found working were those who entered on the dawn shift, but once finished with their shifts they will join the work stoppage.
Therefore, he called on other drivers to join the measure because "Mi Bus has not complied with its promises."
He said drivers have reported they are not paid a salary commensurate with their functions, have no time to take breaks in their work schedules, and that their salaries are discounted without justification.
50 PERCENT OF BUSES ARE PROVIDING SERVICE
Despite the blockade at two points of the Metro Bus routes, more than 50 percent of the buses are operating normally, Mi Bus General Manager Miguel Cardona said this morning.
Cardona said on TVN news that it's a "small group" of workers that have blocked the stations at Los Pueblos (Vía Tocumen) and Ojo de Agua (in San Miguelito). This action prevented the departure of buses, he said.
In turn, Cardona said that the company is open to dialogue with drivers to fix this situation.
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