Workers of Colombia’s justice system on Tuesday suspended a three month strike, amid government threats it would withhold wages and deploy riot police against strikers if citizens were not allowed access to the justice system.
Judicial workers union Asonal said at a press conference on Tuesday that the strike is provisionally suspended until February.
Asonal executive Fredy Machado announced the suspension of the strike together with the president of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Ovidio Claros, who said that the strikers and government had agreed “to establish some tables for negotiations over the issue of the judicial crisis” that has been clogged for years and nearly collapsed under the weight of the strike.
Justice Minister Yesid Reyes had already deployed riot police for Tuesday to ensure striking workers wouldn’t impede their working colleagues from entering justice buildings.
The minister was not amused by the surprise interference of the country’s highest judicial body and said he had never agreed to further negotiations that have been more or less ongoing since 2012 when the judicial workers first went on strike.
The striking justice workers are demanding a wage hike and budget for measures to relieve pressure on the courts and prosecution offices. According to the government that is already facing a $6 billion gap in the 2015 budget, there is no money to meet the strikers’ demands.
The striking judicial workers did not accept the minister’s argument and said that if in February there is still no agreement with the government, “it is possible that we propose a new cessation of activities to the members,” Machado told attending reporters.
According to local media, the strikes have caused the delay in almost 140,000 court cases and have cost the treasury more than $40 million since the strikes kicked off in September.