Workers’ Strike Paralyzes Panama Canal Expansion Project

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – The redevelopment of the Panama Canal has been halted because of the indefinite nationwide strike called by the main construction union in the country, calling for a salary increase of at least 20% annually.

    “The extension is fully paralyzed( … ) the construction industry stands because we are a serious union,” said Hector Hurtado, secretary of the Trade Union of Construction Workers and Similar (Suntracs).

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    Meanwhile, sources of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP ) confirmed on Wednesday that the workers will come to their jobs but are inactive.

    The construction of the third set of locks allows the passage of vessels with 12,600 containers, almost three times the actual.

    The labor strike occured when the construction of the new locks began to regain his speed after the contract dispute that paralyzed the project for two weeks in February.

    The crisis from a claim of GUPC over 1,600 million for “cost overruns” forced the consortium and ACP to begin tough negotiations that culminated in previous March with an agreement to inject at least $ 200 million to the workers.

    Work on the locks rose on Monday to 75 % compared to the rate recorded before the contractual crisis, according to the administrator of the ACP, Jorge Quijano, on a tour of the project by the Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.

    The head of the Panamanian government said on Monday that the progress of the works allows the expanded canal to “work and work at capacity in 2016.”

    That date is on schedule provided by the ACP after the contract dispute, which states that the construction of the locks will culminate in December 2015 with the same cost agreed in the contract, signed with the GUPC in 2009, 2,118 million, and the new injection of capital is the result of the advance payment and loans of the consortium.

    Hurtado, who is also the union leader of SUNTRACS in the proposed expansion area Cocolí in the Pacific, did not specify on this Wednesday how many workers are striking, but stressed out that according to data of the GUPC the global salary reaches 3,000 workers.

    When asked whether the measure was repeated in the Atlantic slope, the union leader answered “yes exactly”.

    “The whole project is paralyzed ( … ) employers have forced us” to take the step, because their wage proposal is not satisfactory to the workers, “said Hurtado.

    The Suntracs, which has about 70,000 members and is the country’s most powerful union, posed a salary increase of at least 20 % annually for the next four years. The period of the new collective agreement negotiated with the Panamanian Chamber of construction ( CAPAC) since the beginning of this year.

    The employer´s in turn proposes a 22 % increase in four years, payable in stages.

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