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Ex-Government Workers Demand Severance Payments: “It's a Blatant Robbery”

Public employees are forced to wait several months or up to five years for their payment, others do not receive even 10% of the amount they are owed

exfuncionarios públicos liquidaciones

Ilustración: Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

8 de abril 2024


Reports of unpaid severance pay in Nicaragua's different public institutions are becoming more frequent. Former public officials who resigned or were fired say that they have been waiting for their severance pay for several months or even years. After a long wait, others who were compensated claim that they were not paid even 10% of the amount they were entitled to.

Martha worked in the Judiciary for almost five years, until she resigned at the beginning of 2023 to leave Nicaragua. She earned about 10,000 córdobas a month (270 USD), and after waiting more than a year for her severance pay, she finally received a check for less than 4,000 córdobas (108 dollars).

“I felt like tearing up the check,” Martha says. But, after reflecting on the situation, she decided to cash it so that the regime would not have “one more cent” than what they had already stolen from her.

Martha views not paying the compensation or paying less than what is due as part of the retaliation of the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo to try to stop the resignations of public employees who in recent years have decided to emigrate, mainly to the United States.

“They are so shameless that all the former workers who have left the country have not been paid this right,” she commented.

Forced to ask permission to leave Nicaragua

Before quitting her job, Martha tried to leave Nicaragua temporarily. But her immediate boss warned her that she could not do so and that - as a public employee - she was obliged to “ask permission.” She disagreed, but her boss put her on the ropes: “It's either that or you resign,” she recalls him telling her.

The restriction was also formally implemented in other state-related institutions. In August 2022, the National Council of Universities (CNU) informed its workers that, if they wished to travel abroad, they were required to notify the reasons for the trip, the country where they were going, and the dates of departure and return to Nicaragua seven days in advance. 

Since then, workers from different government agencies have denounced the imposition of “selective” permits to leave Nicaragua, while the majority are prohibited from doing so.

When Martha went to the border post through which she intended to leave Nicaragua, she was removed from the bus in which she was traveling, her passport was taken away, she was interrogated, photographs were taken and a series of documents were requested, including her letter of resignation. She claims that she was told that she could not leave the country until six months after submitting her resignation, but in the end, she was allowed to leave.

They cannot denounce the “theft” of severance payments

Rafael worked for more than a year at the Ministry of Health (Minsa). At the end of 2021, he resigned from his job as a civil servant because he received a better job offer. He estimates that his severance payment should be around 60,000 córdobas, but the Ortega regime has paid him absolutely nothing. He has been waiting for more than two years.

“I resigned to improve my income,” Rafael says. After giving the fifteen days' notice required by the Nicaraguan Labor Code, “they told me that in two or three months I would receive my severance payment,” he continued.

After waiting patiently for more than three months, he went to Minsa several times to ask for his severance payment, but he was not paid.

“The last times I went, they told me: 'Look, we are giving priority to those who are retiring and in liquidations we are just going through 2016. That was in 2021,” Rafael emphasizes. 

“They practically told me either you wait five or six years for your settlement to come out or you'll see what you do,” he said.

For Rafael, what has happened with his liquidation -and that of hundreds of public employees- is “a swindle,” “a blatant robbery” and something “incomprehensible” that violates all labor laws.

The feeling of frustration “is great,” comments Rafael. "It fills me with emotions to know that, as a former public employee, I can't go to the Ministry of Labor to denounce another ministry, they won't even let you file a complaint, and much less can I go protest that would result in jail.”

A “punishment” for former public officials

Rafael believes that this situation is “a punishment” used by the regime for the former public officials who have decided to resign. “Every time they generate more laws that strongly punish the public employees. They are punished and tied down at the same time,” he commented.

On November 23, 2023, the pro-Ortega deputies in the National Assembly approved the “Law for the calculation of seniority compensation in case of resignation of State workers,” which was described by lawyers as a step backward in terms of acquired labor rights.

The law establishes a seniority compensation table that subjects the worker to 20 years of uninterrupted work to enjoy the same benefits that could be obtained with only six years of work, as established in the Labor Code. In addition, it further reduces benefits for those with less than five years of service.

Workers with three to ten years will receive the equivalent of one month's salary if they leave voluntarily. Meanwhile, those with 10 to 15 years of service will receive the equivalent of 2 months of their salary. In the case of those who accumulate 15 to 20 years of work, the State of Nicaragua will recognize 3 months of salary as liquidation. Only those who have worked 20 continuous years in the public sector will receive five months of salary.

The new rules imposed by Ortega's government come after a series of resignations of state workers who, tired of the repression and police surveillance imposed on state entities, decided to leave their posts.

“All the laws they are taking out are to asphyxiate the worker, to tie him down. I do not expect anything good,” Rafael stressed.

No answers “until further notice”

Marcos is a teacher who for more than five years worked at the National Polytechnic University (UNP), which replaced the confiscated Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli). He was fired during a sweep in October 2023, when university authorities dismissed at least 70 workers. He has not been paid “a single cent” in severance pay, but he considers that “the worst thing” is that they tell him “absolutely nothing.”

The few answers Marcos has received from the university authorities are: “There is no liquidation planning,” “We don't know” and “Until further notice.”

Given the lack of payments and the lack of information about the settlements, Marcos fears that the university authorities are trying to liquidate him with the new law for the calculation of compensation. However, this new regulation only applies in the case of resignations, which is not his case.

“We were fired before this law was passed, they applied Article 45 (of the Labor Code),” Marcos warns. But, he continues, “If they (the regime) want to, they can apply it.”

The situation of the dismissed former public workers contrasts with the provisions of Article 45 of the Labor Code. This article establishes that “when the employer terminates the employment contract for an indefinite period and with just cause, he shall pay the worker an indemnity equivalent to one month's salary for each of the first three years of work, twenty days' salary for each year of work as of the fourth year.” 

Public officials "used" by the regime and the FSLN

Rafael, Martha, and Marcos state that they feel “used” by the regime. They detail that during the time they were public officials, they were forced to “regularly participate” in meetings of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and to allocate “a percentage of their monthly salary” for the support of the Electoral Victory Units (UVE), directed by Vice President Murillo.

“All that time I was a puppet of the authorities of the Supreme Court (of Justice),” Martha criticized. “Every month they forced us to pay the party (a percentage) of our salary for those blessed UVE meetings” and most of us “did it to keep the job,” she added.

At the Ministry of Health, “once a month, outside working hours, workers are obliged to hand out food packages with political propaganda,” Rafael emphasizes. They are also "forced to attend public events not related to health, but rather to politics" and “job growth only applies to those who are very active in politics and not necessarily because of their professional training,” he commented.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.