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Friday, May 24 2019 @ 01:02 PM UTC

Tugboat operators in Panama enter talks to resolve working conditions dispute

Protests & Demonstrations - Talks between tugboat operators in Panama, their employer and the labor ministry are set to take place in a bid to resolve a dispute over working conditions. Last Tuesday some 68 tugboat operators staged a strike over the issue in the ports of Colon and Balboa. The workers, represented by the ITF-affiliated Sindicato de Trabajadores de Servicios Marítimos de Remolcadores, Barcazas y Afines de Panamá (Sitrasermap), are demanding breaks of at least six consecutive hours following 12 hours of continuous work, as well as remuneration for overtime working. Currently their employer, Smit International Harbour Towage Panama, operates a system whereby employees work five days, followed by five days off; in practice, however, employees work 24 hours consecutively in response to workload demands, but only receive payment for 12 hours. The union is concerned that working excessive hours without rest increases the risk of accidents. In addition, the workers are seeking a fair pay settlement. The union is also aiming to organise workers in Virtual Marine Logistic Services, a subsidiary company of Smit. Earlier this week it was agreed that arbitration would take place to resolve the dispute. Sitrasermap is to represent the workers during the process; the company and labour ministry are currently selecting their own representatives. Luis Fruto, General Secretary of Sitrasermap commented: “The company has unilaterally imposed these working conditions on workers. We want the company to obey national and international conventions on working hours and rest time. The way the system currently works means that maritime and canal operations are open to an increased risk of accidents.”
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