1.8 million for rubbish collectors
PANAMA. Workers from the Municipal Refuse Collection Department (DIMAUD) closed four lanes in Via España, for three hours yesterday, ca...
PANAMA. Workers from the Municipal Refuse Collection Department (DIMAUD) closed four lanes in Via España, for three hours yesterday, causing traffic chaos near the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
They were demanding payment of $28 million owed by the government to DIMAUD.
More than 10 refuse trucks parked in the middle or the road causing a massive traffic jam, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. forcing drivers to find alternative routes in a city where there are few choices.
The protestors felt that the government delay in paying the money owed to the department has not only affected the payment of money owed to utilities, but is also responsible for the chronic lack of tools that they need to carry out their work.
The National Police director, Francisco Troya arrived to talk to the protestors and convinced them to remove the truck from the main highway after promising that the Minister of Economy and Finance, Hector Alexander would talk to them to find a solution.
The Dimaud secretary, Rodolfo Jiménez said that after the meeting with Minister Alexander it was agreed that the Cabinet Council would approve $1.8 million to meet the most urgent needs of the institution.
It is expected that DIMAUD will receive the money next week and that the workers will continue to collect garbage as usual.
The payment of $1.8 million is part of the debt of $28 million that the government has with DIMAUD.
The president of the DIMAUD Workers Association, Rodolfo Olivares said they are trusting the Ministry of Economy and Finance to keep its word and produce the money by next week.
Olivares said that for the moment all pressure measures will stop, on the condition that they receive the $1.8 million the government promised so DIMAUD can buy working tools and repair the refuse collection trucks.
The union leader said that he wants to talk with the mayor-elect Bosco Vallarino, to explain the position of DIMAUD.
Hugo Romero, an official of the DIMAUD Workers Association said that his fellow workers do not want to inconvenience the public, but the time has come when something must be done, or they will have to resort to more severe measures like not collecting garbage, which could create a health hazard.
On March 24 DIMAUD was forced to change its collection schedules on the different routes around the capital city as a way to save money, after its electricity supply was cut for lack of payment.
According to an invoice dated March 18, the electricity company Union Fenosa said that DIMAUD has not made payments since December 2008 and they owe $91,000.
DIMAUD director, Rafael Reyes said that the institution owed suppliers approximately $15 million and it needs 1,700 gallons of fuel to be able to operate, apart from having to rent special equipment to to collect hazardous hospital waste.
The director said that the companies that formerly rented collection truck sto the institution do no want to continue providing services because of the amount owed to them.
The government owes $28 million for the collection, transport, confinement and treatment of hazardous biological waste collected from hospitals and other medical centers, apart from the cleaning of streets.
DIMAUD has been fighting for the payment of the money for several years.
Reyes said that on many occasions they had requested the President Martin Torrijos’ administration pay the debt, but nothing has happened.
DIMAUD collects 1,300 tons of rubbish daily from the streets and has 3,100 employees that provide 24 hour service.