Panama Canal Workers May Strike

Workers at the Panama Canal Expansion project could be set to go on strike on Wednesday August 12, 2015 after a dispute arose between GUPC, the consortium managing the canal’s expansion and ‘Suntracs’, the construction workers union, according to a report in IHS Maritime 360. 

According to GUPC, SUNTRACS has requested a new 8.9% wage increase in addition to the 11% increase given last year.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is not directly involved in the dispute and has repeatedly appealed to both sides to reach an agreement. The ACP, although the ultimate owner of the project, is in no way responsible for labour issues arising from any failure on the part of GUPC to meet labour demands by its subcontractors.

The project has already been delayed by a work stoppage due to a payment dispute between GUPC and ACP in February 2014 and a strike by SUNTRACS in April 2014.

Following the earlier disputes between GUPC and ACP, 28 milestones were put in place. Of those, 24 had been attained by the end of June 2015. Barring further substantial delays, the full commercial opening of the expanded Panama Canal is expected in 2016. However,  if strike action is allowed to continue, significant delays could result in the canal’s construction.

The canal itself is currently at the electro-mechanical phase of its development, having recently completed the installation of 16 rolling lock gates, eight on the Pacific side and the other eight on the Atlantic side.