PANAMA CITY – The union representing Panamanian construction workers reached an agreement with the CAPAC employers association to end a nationwide strike that began on April 23.
“We reached a collective bargaining agreement and we’ve ended the strike,” Suntracs union chief Saul Mendez told Efe, adding that his members will be back on the job Thursday.
An accord that “dignifies the job construction workers do” was achieved during the strike after a long negotiating process with CAPAC, the union leader said.
He said the union and CAPAC negotiated salary increases over the next four years, with the highest pay hikes going to workers involved in big projects such as a new set of locks for the Panama Canal and a third bridge over that inter-oceanic waterway.
The pay raises will take effect starting July 1, Mendez said.
The salary for assistants, now $2.73 an hour, will rise to $3 an hour this year and in successive stages to $3.71 an hour in 2017, while starting construction workers will see their salaries rise from $3.08 to $3.35 in July, reaching $4.18 an hour in 2017.
Salaries of skilled workers will rise from $3.67 an hour to $4 an hour this year and to $5 an hour in 2017.
Suntracs, which has at least 70,000 members, launched the nationwide job action seeking salary hikes of 80 percent over the next four years, compared to a 25 percent raise proposed by CAPAC.
Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Luis Quijano on Tuesday said the work stoppage affecting construction of the third set of locks was costing the government $1 million a day.
He added that the Spanish-led consortium in charge of building the third set of locks, the centerpiece of a $5.25 billion Panama Canal expansion project, would present a claim for strike-related cost overruns.