The Construction, Maintenance and Allied Workers of Canada (CMAW) decided to support workers in Panama in their struggle against the anti-union Canadian mining company, First Quantum Minerals (FQM).
Delegates at the union’s 7th National Convention voted to approve a solidarity motion for the Union of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) of Panama in Vancouver last week. The reason is the mass-dismissals and other anti-union acts that the company has carried out through its branch in Panama: Minera Panama.
The company builds a mining complex in a remote area of the Caribbean coast of Panama for copper, zinc, nickel and gold exploitation. This is an investment project, employing nearly 7,500 workers, many of who are migrant workers. The project is worth more than 6,000 million $USD.
Last February, Minera Panama signed an agreement with SUNTRACS and high-level government authorities where they committed to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement by May. However, as the deadline approached, the company proceed to dismiss SUNTRACS leaders, supporters and more than 300 unionized workers. Following this, FQM signed a collective bargaining agreement with a plant union instead of with SUNTRACS.
After the CMAW delegates unanimously supported the motion, out-going President Jan Noters stated, “It is time for us to raise our voice against the anti-union practices of FQM. What FQM is doing in Panama is unacceptable and is against trade union values and history of CanadaOur Panamanian comrades have all our support and solidarity".
SUNTRACS filed a formal complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO) against the Panamanian government, pointing at the failure to enforce the law and improper association between public and private powers. The BWI General Secretary, Ambet Yuson also signed the complaint and expressed the international solidarity support of BWI to SUNTRACS and dismissed workers.