Panama: SUNTRACS demands reintegration of 9,000 suspended workers

Amidst the imposition of a new COVID-19 lockdown in Panama this January, the Union of Construction Workers of Panama (SUNTRACS) sustained its street protests and mobilisations calling on the government to respect trade union autonomy and the reabsorption to their jobs of workers who were suspended as a result of the pandemic. 

Since November of last year, SUNTRACS has been demanding the reintegration of 9,000 suspended construction workers. This would restore the number of workers in the industry before the pandemic to 23,000. 

"We propose to revitalise construction projects provided that these strictly observe health and safety protocols monitored by our union delegates," said Saul Méndez Rodríguez, SUNTRACS-Secretary General. 

Pending reabsorption, SUNTRACS is also demanding a monthly allocation of PAB 500 (USD 498) to all suspended workers. 

Meanwhile, the union protested the approval of Executive Decree No. 228 issued by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (MITRADEL) last December. SUNTRACS explained that while the decree approves of online trade union assemblies, it requires the presence of a MITRADEL representative in the said online sessions. It said that any online assembly where a MITRADEL is not present will not be honoured and registered.

“We will not tolerate this clear violation of trade union autonomy. If necessary, we will go to the ILO to demand social dialogue and preserve the autonomy of our trade unions. We will not allow the government to take advantage of the pandemic to further undermine labour rights, reduce social protection and interfere with our internal trade union affairs,” Méndez said.