EspañolExpansion work on the Panama Canal has been interrupted once again, this time due to a national worker strike. Just as work had resumed recently, completion of the expansion project has been postponed after a contractual dispute between the United Group for the Canal (GUPC) and National Authority of Panama.
The expansion “is completely paralyzed,” said Héctor Hurtado, Organizational Secretary of the National Construction Workers Union (SUNTRACS). GUPC confirmed that work has effectively been halted in “all production activities in both the Atlantic and Pacific sectors of the project.” As a result, the project’s timetable has changed yet again.
Although workers arrived for work, they did not resume their duties. “The expansion of the Panama Canal is 100 percent paralyzed,” said Saúl Méndez, Secretary-General of SUNTRACS. SUNTRACS, with around 70,000 members, demands an annual wage increase of at least 35 percent for the next 4 years, but the Panamanian Chamber of Construction (Capac) has only offered them a 20 percent increase. Méndez said that the salary adjustment demanded by SUNTRACS, initially set at 50 percent annually, is “in line” with the multimillion-dollar profits of the industry.
“The biggest issue is always wages, and we are are going to work together in this discussion in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible,” read a statement from the Labor Ministry’s office.