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Friday, March 22 2019 @ 12:35 AM UTC

Panama Canal expansion halted amid labor dispute

Canal ExpansionWork on the Panama Canal expansion ground to a halt yesterday after a bitter labor dispute resulted in the walkout of thousands of workers. According to the workers union, the largest in the country, its members left their posts yesterday in demand of better working conditions and the payment of back wages. “Work is completely paralyzed, on the Pacific and the Atlantic side,” said Saul Mendez, head of the National Union of Workers in Construction and Allied Industries. The Panama Canal, responsible for five percent of the world’s yearly trade, is currently undergoing a US$5.25 billion expansion to allow the world’s largest vessels to safely navigate the 102-mile waterway. According to Mendez, union members are also demanding a rise in the basic minimum wage of $2.90 an hour given to the majority of workers on site, and a stop to the mistreatment of workers by foreign foreman overseeing the project.

Monday’s labor stoppage was followed by a day of protests including the burning of tires, according to MSN News. Construction contractor the United Group has strongly denied the allegations, stating that it “fully complies with the pay and working conditions and it is very respectful of Panamanian regulations.” However, the United Group has admitted that the distribution of wages had been miscalculated by a local contractor due to what it calls “errors in the incorporation of data”. The United Group added that they are currently working on rectifying the situation.

The Panama Canal has generated a total of $6.6 billion for the Central American country since the control of the vital waterway was handed over by the United States over a decade ago. The Panama Canal expansion is scheduled to be completed by 2014. (porttechnology.org)

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