Colombian judicial workers reached an agreement with the government on Wednesday to end a month long strike that has paralyzed the country’s justice system.
“Today we signed the agreement we had celebrated the night before, it just lacked the formality of signing,” claimed Justice Minister Ruth Stella Correa on Wednesday.
Colombia’s judicial workers are expected to resume their duties as of 8AM Thursday morning. “We realize that most of the employees of the courts and the prosecutor’s office are anxious to return to their jobs,” said Correa.
Approximately 60,000 judicial officers, who are represented by the National Association of Professional Employees of the Judicial Branch (Asonal), have been on strike since October 11. The protesters’ key demands were an increased judicial budget and higher, more equitable salaries.
Consequently, as part of the newly signed agreement, the government will devote $672 million toward wage equalization. The measure will take effect from January 2013 to 2018.
According to the Ministry of Justice, “”This is an historic agreement for the judicial branch, it represents a significant salary increase for employees of the judicial and prosecution. In no way can it be said that the money …is insufficient.”
The events of the past 24 hours suggest there were divisions within Asonal’s leadership. Nelson Cantillo, who is a senior member of Asonal’s board, told reporters on Wednesday that the union had not accepted the government’s proposal.
Hours later, however, Correa revealed, “We signed this agreement with [Asonal president] Fernando Otalvaro. He has the ability to represent the organization and he is the only one authorized to lift the strike.”
The month long mass strike is estimated to have cost more than $1 million per day. More than 100,000 court cases reportedly came to a standstill as a result of the protest.