Varela wants strike arbitration as key projects stall

752Views 2Comments Posted 10/05/2018

Panama’s president, Juan Carlos Varela,  has called on the leadership of the construction workers union (Suntracs) to invoke arbitration if they don’t reach an agreement with employers’ guild (Capac) during the upcoming weekend.

The strike was called on April 18 after six months of negotiations on a work contract for the next four years but, after hammering out an agreement on scores of issues the talks finally broke down over pay demands.

"The continuity of this strike  is untenable for us, "said Varela, and the workers should return to their jobs no later than May 15  while the dispute  goes to arbitration

He said on Thursday. May 10  that the strike is affecting major works of the government as well as the time of delivery.

Delays in the construction of Metro Line 2 and the new terminal at Tocumen International  Airport are of particular concern to the president who lobbied hard to bring Pope Francis and World Youth Day (WYD) to Panama in January and providing a world stage swan song for his administration a coincidental few months before the next elections.

Millions of dollars had already   been allocated to speeding up work on the Metro  to have it partially  operating in time for the anticipated flood of pilgrims  and the last thing Varela  needs is a further request from Odebrecht  for more funds to complete the job in time as the countdown clock, installed in Parque Urraca opposite the president’s home  reminds him that time is running out.

He said on Thursday, May 10  that Suntracs has the viability to request arbitration because it was the one that requested legalization  of the strike

"We make the request firmly and respectfully," he added.

But that attitude may change if the feuding parties don’t move closer to a deal.

They have failed to narrow the gap between the union demand of 11 percent raise each year of the agreement and the Capac offer of two percent, made after Suntracs flatly rejected the initial offer of one percent as “crumbs,” from a table that has made billions for developers  during the boom years

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