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Monday, September 01 2014 @ 07:26 PM EDT

257 Railroad Workers Get Paid After 13 Years of Waiting

Employment & JobsAmidst a mix of satisfaction and confusion, the Panamanian Government yesterday presented checks worth $15.6 million dollars to 257 former railroad employees who had to wait nearly 13 years for the payment of their services. One of those who was surprised when he received his check was José Alexis Acevedo, 63, upon discovering the government had deducted $8,000 dollars for income taxes and educational insurance. Acevedo said his lawyers told him he should get this money back, and that instead of receiving $45,000 he got $36,000 and he has not ruled out the possibility of filing a claim with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. According to the representative of the former employees, Donald Miller, these salaries are for 88 months of work, and therefore he thinks the cancellation of this debt represents "a chapter of our lives that we can now close." President Ricardo Martinelli, who was present and the ceremony to present the checks to the former railroad workers, told those present that "it's never too late for good news." "After eight months in office, I see the things that happened during previous administrations, and this was so simple and easy but they did not resolve the problem (...) what was missing here was a will, a desire to go good, what I saw (from past administrations) was a desire to see how far they could extend this or how long they could delay paying, and to take away from you all that they could, and today we are doing justice," said the President. In a playful tone he said there is still another issue pending - payments to the former dockworkers - and he instructed the authorities to accelerate the negotiations. On this particular issue, he said there is no need for these people to pay lawyers because the negotiations will be conducted in a favorable environment. "Don't let the lawyers scam you for 20% of the money, when there is a good will (on our part) to do things, then things get done and this government keeps it's word to the people," he said. (Source - La Critica)

Editor's Comment: Back in 1997 the Government of Panama under former president Ernesto Perez Balladares privatized the railroad. These 257 former government employees were basically fired from one day to the next and tossed out on their asses. A long series of legal battles ensued and eventually they won a judgement from the Supreme Court which said the government of Panama owed them the money. This judgement was handed down a long time ago, during the administration of Martin Torrijos, who never saw fit to actually cut the checks and pay the workers what they legally had coming to them. Ricardo Martinelli's administration finally did what should have been done in 1997 - they took care of their employees. I remember meeting a handful of these people several years ago, as they marched towards the offices of the Comptroller to hold yet another protest. Yesterday, they finally got paid. Good for them.

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