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Monday, August 26 2019 @ 12:32 am EDT

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Panama's Economy Creates 116,770 New Jobs In First Six Months of 2011

Employment & JobsDuring the first half of this year there have been 42,487 new hires in the construction sector, representing 36.3% of the total new jobs created in this period in Panama City, of a total of 116,770 jobs. The information was provided by Fabricio Finch, head of Statistics at the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (MITRADEL), who said the construction sector is characterized as the largest generator of new jobs. According to statistics, the month of June saw the most new hires with 11,291 while in January there as the fewest with 4,359. Of all workers employed in the first half, 33,797 are men representing 80% of contracts and 8,000 were women. The activity of the companies that have opened new offices in the Panama Pacific Special Economic Area (AEEPP) and the expansion of the Panama Canal with about 6,000 contracts have been the major generator of jobs in construction during this semester. Finch recalled in previous years, the sector generating the most jobs were trade, but this year it has been dominated by the construction industry due to the mega projects being developed mainly in the city of Panama. This report does not include the generation of jobs due to the construction boom of tourist hotels on the beaches of ​​the interior. Manufacturing created 12,164 new jobs, and trade created 12,217. According to MITRADEL records, hotels and restaurants created 11,460 new jobs and real estate 11,173. Michael Fernandez, Economic Advisor (CAPAC), recognized there is a shortfall, but that improved over the course of the months in hiring labor. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Holy crap. According to this article the tiny economy of Panama created 116,770 new jobs in just the past six months. That is an amazing number, when you consider the entire workforce of the Republic of Panama is only estimated to be about 1.557 million people. Therefore, 116,770 new hires would represent 7.49% of the entire estimated labor force. The unemployment level for 2010 was 6.5%. If these numbers are true and accurate, unemployment should now be at -1%. Full employment, plus some. The only way to work this magic is if some people who were identified in this report as "new hires" actually left other work or positions in order to fill these new contracts. The details of the numbers don't really matter all that much. What does matter, on the other hand, is that Panama's economy is estimated to grow at about 8.5% this year. A growing economy creates new jobs. And without a doubt the labor force is drying up, running out - approaching full employment across the board. Very soon employers will start to feel the pinch. They won't be able to find qualified people to fill the positions they have open. Employers will then start to do several things. They will hire illegals to work for cash and under the table. They will increase pay to entice qualified and experienced employees to leave one company to come work for them. And, they will begin to ask the government of Panama to ease restrictions on foreign workers. And obviously, these restrictions make no sense in an economy that has reached full employment. I've been predicting this for years, and now it looks like we're getting closer and closer to the "tipping point."

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Martinelli Begs Spaniards To Come To Panama To Work - Promises Quick and Easy Citizenship

Employment & JobsThe president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, on Wednesday encouraged Spaniards to come to Panama to work because there is "full employment." A note from Europress adds that Martinelli said "but Panama lacks skilled manpower for the many infrastructure projects the government is undertaking, plus the expansion of the Panama Canal." Martinelli said "Panama is a country of opportunities," during a speech given at the New Economy Forum, highlighting the numerous ongoing projects in the country, both in the infrastructure as well as in sectors such as tourism and energy. He noted that although there is "full employment" their country, Panama "needs a lot of professionals," such as engineers or in the future "doctors and nurses" because they are building five new hospitals. In this regard Martinelli said during his meetings with the King and the Prime Minister of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, he proposed to "unilaterally" and without asking anything in return for an agreement under which "any Spanish citizen who has been living in Panama for more than one year shall be eligible for citizenship." This could be especially useful considering that by law, the State requires that 90 percent of workers in companies in the country be Panamanian, although according to Martinelli this is "more of a problem on paper but in practice there is a lot of flexibility." (TVN Noticias)

Editor's Comment: Holy crap. The government of Panama is getting desperate for labor. This article is a diplomatic form of begging. The government will now begin to offer even more incentives and create initiatives such as this to lure and retain skilled labor from around the world. Notice - they don't want or need unskilled labor but if you have a degree then come on down.

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Work Permits Approved For Foreigners

Employment & JobsThe approval of an Executive Order to grant temporary work permits to foreigners is not being well received by the labor unions, who say the government must first guarantee the jobs for Panamanian nationals. With the decree approved last Tuesday in the Cabinet Council, about 11,500 foreigners whose immigration status was recently regularized by the National Immigration Service could have the opportunity to enter the labor market in Panama. Minister of Labor and Workforce Development, Alma Cortez, said this permit, which will have the same validity as the card issued to normalize the immigration status for two years, will have an approximate cost of $500 dollars. A percentage of the revenue collected will be used for social projects.

"They (the National Immigration Service and the government) have regularized the status of many people who were illegal before, and his decree establishes possibility that these foreigners have access to decent work and dignity," said the head of Labor. Now, said Cortés, these people might have the income to sustain themselves and retain the services of attorneys who handled their legal status in Panama. She said she will send a letter to the Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino, to open an account on behalf of the National Treasury, which will be used to allow foreigners to buy their checks and pay for the permit.

According to Rafael Chavarria, of the National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO), the granting of work permits to foreigners is worrisome, because every day there are more foreigners working, which goes against the Panamanians. "They should comply with the provisions of the Code of Labour ... there can be no more than 15% of foreigners working in a company," said Chavarria. Meanwhile, Genaro Lopez of the National Confederation of Independent Unions, said that first they should ensure work for Panamanian nationals. Immigration has held, since last year, six extraordinary sessions to regularize the immigration status of thousands of foreigners, called "Panama, melting pot." (Panama America)

Editor's Comment : I told you so. As part of this process Immigration has only processed 11,500 people. That's nothing considering the growing demand for qualified labor in Panama, and the fact that many of these people are already working, in one form or another, somewhere. Maybe half of that number, less than 6,000 will actually enter the work force to take "normal" jobs on a payroll at a company. This is a first step, and eventually Panama will have to take even more to crack open the labor market to foreigners. Was that CONATO dude right? I thought it was 10% - but he said 15%? Did something change and I missed it?

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More Than 6,000 Jobs In The Hotel Industry in Panama - And More On The Way

Employment & JobsThere are about 6,000 jobs available in the different hotels in the country, so the National Institute of Vocational Training for Human Development (INADEH) and the Panamanian Association of Hotels is training those who are working or who want to work in the industry. There are also opportunities for those wishing to work in this industry. In addition, there are already about 35 schools who are providing a Bachelor's degree in Tourism to meet the demand.

Editor's Comment: There are currently about 45 hotels in construction in the different parts of Panama, with the grand majority of the new rooms coming on line in Panama City. Everyone already knows that there will be more jobs available than people to fill them. Training new people is supposedly the solution, however unemployment is already at record lows. There are only so many bilingual or trilingual front desk receptionists with experience in the country. Oh, and by the way - has anyone pointed out the fact that customer service in Panama sucks? I mean, no offense or anything, but there simply is no culture, experience, or expectation of superior customer service in this country. None. Business people already know - if you absolutely have to have excellent customer service, hire a Colombian... (no kidding). Panama is about to face a severe labor shortage, and the only way out will be to issue short term work permits to foreigners. I've been predicting this for months if not years. The squeeze is starting, and it's going to get worse. Wages will go up for those most in demand.

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Government Will Install Minimum Wage Commission on 6 June 2011

Employment & JobsPanama's Labor Minister Alma Cortez said the National Commission on the Minimum Wage will be installed on Monday, 6 June 2011. She recalled that the adoption of Law 30 of 2010 gives a space at the table to CONUSI. Cortes said she hopes in the future space will also be given to the representatives of independent unions and the Panama Canal Authority. Meanwhile, the union leader Samuel Rivera reported there are many companies who are not paying the minimum wage such as security guard companies, and he urged the Ministry of Labor to do inspections. Rivera said higher costs for food and basic necessities substantiate an increase to the minimum wage. (La Estrella)

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FAQ: Can I Get A Friggin' Job in Panama?

Employment & JobsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Hi Don, I've been following up on your updates about job opportunities for foreigners. I am a world class customer service representative, worked on reception for 11 years now, six of them onboard of high standard cruise lines. I speak 5 languages and own valuable skills as well. Do you believe I could be considered for a position on the Hotel industry in Panama? George."

Unfortunately, Probably Not: Foreign owned companies can hire a maximum of 10% of their staff from outside of Panama. This law was established so that companies can bring in their executives and specialized or highly skilled labor in with them for key positions, but the bulk of the jobs (90%) must go to Panamanians, by law. And while your customer service skills are urgently needed in Panama (where customer service generally sucks) you would have to find a company willing to give up one of their 10% slots, put you on a contract, and bring you into the country to work. There is also an onerous paperwork shuffle required between Immigration and the Ministry of Labor to get your visa and work permit. If you just land on the ground in Panama City and start handing out resumes, your chances of finding a position are exceptionally slim. I don't recommend that anyone do that, no matter what their background, education, or skill set.

I Have No Friggin' Idea: I get email all the time from people that say something like "I'm a highly skilled heavy equipment operator and I would like to get a job working on the expansion of the canal. Can you send me a phone number or give me an email address where I should send my resume?" No, I can't. There's this new magic thing on the Internet these days called "Google" - it helps you find stuff. If your first step in trying to find a job is to contact a journalist, then I have to question your fundamental job hunting skill set. "Dear Reporter at the New York Times - I really like the idea of living in Manhattan, and I heard they are building some new stuff there. Who should I call to see about getting a job?" See what I mean? You're asking the wrong person. Now, this guy's question was "do you think I could be considered..." Of course, anything is possible. However, I'm not the guy that can help you get a job. You need to do that on your own, so good luck.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panamanians Can't Speak No Good English

Employment & JobsA poor command of the English language is the main problem for Panamanians that keeps them from having access to a better job. Faced with this situation, the Trump Ocean Club group is holding a job fair and they are offering at least 300 jobs to Panamanians who want to work for their hotel project. The interviews are being held at the University of the Isthmus and Ganexa, and applicants only need to bring their resume and attend an interview conducted by the human resource management of this company. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: There's no doubt about it - Panamanians who can speak English generally earn a lot more than their counterparts who can't. What's more, people who are also intelligent, reliable, and responsible are worth their weight in gold (because they are so rare.) The local work force has not caught up to the opportunities that are presenting themselves in this hot and expanding economy.

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They Are Practically Begging People To Become Metro Bus Drivers

Employment & JobsThere are not enough drivers for the Metro Buses, is the phrase that has echoed in recent days. The central government, the administrator of My Bus and even the National Training Institute for Human Development (INADEH) have all insisted there are opportunities for those who wish to work for the new mass transit system. Today, when speaking on the channel 2 TVN morning news broadcast, the Minister of the Presidency, Jimmy Papadimitriu, accepted it by saying "there are problems with the operators." In a few days ago, Ivan Posada, the Chief Executive of My Bus, said they are having delays in the implementation of the system on new routes because of problems with hiring drivers.

This morning the director of INADEH, Themistocles Rosas, was clear in saying that although someone might not currently be a bus driver, those who are interested can apply to take the courses provided by the entity which make it easier to obtain the appropriate license. There is also an advertising campaign making the same call constantly, asking people to come and learn how to be bus drivers. When the managers of the Metrobus system were asked when they will complete the activation of all routes of the Southern Corridor and commence with those of the Northern Corridor, no one dares to give an exact date. But anytime they are given the opportunity to speak in public they always make a call to ask people to come and seek a position of employment with this company.

La Estrella consulted Esteban Rodriguez of the National Transportation Board (CANATRA), who said the blame for the lack of staff should fall on the recruiters of the Mi Bus company (that is responsible for operating the Metrobus system). Rodriguez reported the company gives "inhuman treatment to their drivers." He said they have something against CANATRA members, as many have been tested and they meet the requirements, but still they were rejected. According to the union leader, Mi Bus has rejected 70% of the members who are associated with their organization who have applied to be Metrobus operators.

Other measures due to the shortage of employees - Posada has been clear. When speaking to the news media he said that - although the priority is to work with Panamanians - if needed and if the law allows, they will seek foreign labor. About 2,800 bus drivers are needed to cover all of the routes in Panama City. Currently there are 190 working and another 180 are in the selection and training process. The administrators of the Metro Bus system have revealed that just to run the buses of the Northern and Southern corridor routes they will been 550 drivers. In Panama there are now about 150 buses, of which 120 are in operating condition and another 30 are being prepared. (La Estrella)

The Republic of Panama is facing growing pains with the implementation of the new Metro Bus system.

Editor's Comment: Translation - for the most part, those people who have experience driving the old "Red Devil" buses are buses are being rejected, probably because they have terrible driving records, many accidents, outstanding tickets, and bad habits, and bad attitudes. Before the individual bus owners had to take practically anyone who would sling their bus around the city to make a dime. Now, this company and the government of Panama have to be more stringent and demanding in their hiring practices. So, it's not that there's a shortage of experienced bus drivers - there's a shortage of good bus drivers who won't go out and pull the same crap they've been doing for years on the old buses. This labor shortage is going to delay the implementation of the system, no doubt.

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A Word About Unemployment in Panama (Looming Labor Shortage)

Employment & Jobs By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The other day I saw updated numbers and statistics for the levels of unemployment in Panama - 4.7%. This is the lowest number I've ever seen reported in the 24 years that I've lived in this country. And, considering the relentless growth of the economy over the past ten years it makes perfect sense. There are more jobs now in Panama than ever before and the economy continues to grow at an amazing pace. That's the good news.

There Is A Downside: However, back when I was studying international business in college many moons ago something similar was happening in the United States. The unemployment levels dropped down to about 4% or so and all of a sudden the fast-food places and employers with minimum wage jobs available could not fill them. There was too much work available and not enough people to fill all of the positions. The question I had at the time was "then why does the unemployment number never seem to drop below 4%." The answer is both simple and obvious - for ever 100 people out there who are within the working age group, there are at least four dudes who are outright lazy and who simply don't want to work. And now in Panama we're starting to get down to that number. Once you hit that level, a couple of things start to happen.

Higher Wages: It doesn't take long for the workers to figure out that they can make a lateral move from one company to another to secure a higher paying job. Those with skills, experience, and education become more highly sought after. Employers have to offer more money to attract qualified workers, and pay more to their existing work force to keep them on the job. So, more people will be making more money, but there is an inflationary element as businesses are forced to pass those higher costs of doing business on to their customers. But everyone has more money to spend, so the two things cancel themselves out at a macro level.

Worker Shortage: This is already happening in Panama. The next article I'm going to publish talks about how the government is practically begging people to become drivers for the new Metro Bus system. They're only paying about $585 dollars per month (if I remember right) and apparently that's not enough money to attract qualified candidates. So, there are more jobs than workers (at that rate). Answer - offer more money. This situation with the Metro Buses is just the tip of the iceberg - an early indication of what will eventually become a much bigger and much more serious problem - a labor shortage in Panama. There has always been a shortage of quality skilled labor, for example those with particular skills (bilingual for example) or trained to do specific jobs. But now the economy is expanding in all directions so even those with minimal skills and experience will still be able to get better paying jobs.

Openings For Foreigners: Last year the Panamanian government started making some moves to grow the labor force. Specifically, they started to "legalize" those foreigners who have been living in Panama and working illegally for years. The concept is simple - give those people a legal immigration status so they can go out and get legal, regular, normal, on-the-books jobs. They held several of these "immigration fairs" all around the country, and by now that pot has probably run pretty much dry. I expect that the next step will be do open the doors a crack to foreigners. They will do this in a very selective manner, and they will allow in people on short term contracts to take specific jobs - construction, for example. Then in the future if the construction market dries up, they can pull those permits and kindly ask the now-unemployed people to return to their country of origin. The foreigners will be expected to take the lowest paying and least desirable jobs - like Mexican grape pickers in Southern California. Panama needs someone to do the work, and they will have to find a way to strike a balance between allowing foreigners in to work, while keeping unemployment low, and at the same time working against inflation. It's a balancing act.

That's The Big Picture: Now, you will probably see about 100 articles over the next year or so discussing the various details of these kinds of issues. There will be a lot more about this over time, not less. Heads up. If you have good and skilled employees, hang on to them...

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Are There Employment Hiring Exceptions Based on My Job Skill Set?

Employment & Jobs By DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Hello, I am considering semi retiring to Panama. I am a Journeyman Power Lineman with 20+ years. I was wondering what the lilelyhood of getting a job in Panama as a Lineman would be. I realize they (Panama) only employs very few non-residents, but I was curious to find out if my field of work is an exception. Thank you. Ron"

Probably Not: There are Panamanians who are trained and experienced linemen as well, so I doubt there's any chance of an exception based on your specific job skill set. The trick is to find a company with a job in Panama that's willing to hire you as a foreigner, and to "burn up" one of their positions that can potentially be used to hire a foreigner. Remember, any company can hire one foreigner for every ten Panamanians on the payroll. There are very few exceptions.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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FAQ: Can I Move To Panama And Work There?

Employment & JobsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "hi there. My name is wolfgang married German passport could you tell me if i can work in panama? JOB OFFERS SAY ONLY RESIDETS OF PANAMA. we are living and working at the Dominican rep AND WE LIKE TO LEVE SOON. SALUDOS WOLFGANG"

Sorry, Probably Not: There are a lot of people around the world that have this same question, and unless you are a Panamanian citizen your chances of being able to work in Panama are pretty slim. Foreign companies can have like one foreign employee for every ten Panamanians they have on the payroll, and there is a very specific process that has to happen before you can be hired, paid, registered with Social Security, and all of that. You will need a work permit from the Ministry of Labor. That's why the job announcements all say something along those lines - that you have to be a resident of Panama with a work permit before they can hire you. The system in Panama is designed to reduce unemployment and to get as many Panamanians working as possible before they allow foreigners to come in and take jobs. Hope this helps.

Copyright 2011 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Panamanian Moving Back to Panama From The US

Employment & JobsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - Received today via email: "Greetings. I'm a Panamanian looking to move back to Panama. What are the possibilities of me getting a job within the computer or networking field, and what companies would I send my resume to? Thanks in advance. Currently contracting with IBM / Lenovo. Luis"

You'll Get A Job, Probably Making Less: As a Panamanian citizen you can work in Panama with no problem, doing whatever. With a computer and networking background there's going to be a demand for your skills. However, expect to make a much lower monthly salary than you're probably making now in the United States. Try looking into one of the placement companies like www.konzerta.com, and good luck. You also might want to consider starting your own company.

Copyright 2010 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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More Foreigners Getting Work Permits in Panama

Employment & Jobs Thus far this year through August 2010, the Panamanian government has approved a total of 6,478 work permits for foreigners, representing an increase of 1,074 compared to the same period of time in 2009, according to the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development (MITRADEL). Meanwhile, a total of 8,020 applications were process, up from 6,157 reported last year. Of these, most of the applications come from Colombian, Chinese, and Venezuelan citizens. "This is a direct reflection of the foreign investment that is taking place in Panama," said Adolfo Linares, the former president of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama (CCIAP). He added the phenomenon may be due to many factors, including the project to expand the Panama Canal, and many multinational companies are establishing new offices in Panama, in addition to the normal activities and banks, among others.

Although the report from the Department of Statistics of the MITRADEL does not reflect the amount of their wages, Linares said it can be medium to high, as companies usually tend to bring their high ranking executives. Of the permits approved by the MITRADEL, 1,655 correspond to the 10% category. That is to say, foreign companies operating in Panama are only allowed to hire a maximum of 10% of foreign labor.

Meanwhile, the highest number of approvals relate to foreign nationals who are married to a Panamanian citizen (2,244), followed by indefinite permissions (1,262), and 519 under the Marackesh agreement, among others.

For his part, Juan Cabareda, a Venezuelan, said the main advantage of working in Panama is the economic stability, due to the currency, as well as the low inflation in the country, which means he can buy more with the money earned. "In Venezuela, the minimum wage is not enough for anything, instead here the money goes farther for things such as food and housing, the cars are cheaper, and the only thing that is more expensive is gasoline," he said.

The Center for Economic Studies of the CCIAP explained that some companies hire foreign workers with the intention of bringing knowledge to meet needs for specific skills, highlighting some sectors such as trade, services, high technology and others. (Panama America)

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The "Labor and Strike" Aspects of the "Lobster Law"

Employment & JobsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - As you probably already know, over the weekend Panama's National Assembly passed Law 177, also known as the "Lobster Law" or the "9 in 1" law, because it modified three codes (Penal, Judicial, and Labor) as well as articles of six other existing laws. The base or underlying law has to do with commercial aviation and the first Eleven Articles of Law 177 deal specifically with those issues only. In the days and weeks leading up to the debates and voting by the National Assembly, labor unions, specifically the leadership of the SUNTRACS construction workers, held marches and protests against the parts of the new law that modify the Labor Code as it deals with the right to strike. Articles 12 through 16 of Law 177 discuss these issues, and I have translated them below for your review. Here is a summary of what the law says;
  • Workers can still walk out on a legal strike if they have the support of the majority of workers.

  • Once a strike has been declared, authorities from the Ministry of Labor will order the deployment of police officers who will be assigned the task of safeguarding people and property. In short, they will be there to enforce the law and keep the peace.

  • Business owners are now guaranteed access to their facilities, as well as non striking maintenance, administrative, and managerial personnel, for purposes of non production activities such as maintenance and repair of equipment to prevent damage while the strike continues. Before the passage of this law striking employees would "take over" an entire facility and prevent anyone from entering, for any reason. This has been eliminated.

  • Business owners and managers can ask authorities from the Ministry of Labor to verify if the strikers do, in fact, represent a majority of workers. The Ministry of Labor will conduct a headcount and if the striking workers have a majority then the strike is validated and legal. If the striking workers do not in fact represent a majority of the workers then the strike is null and void.

  • During a strike, business owners can hire people to maintain equipment and conduct preventative maintenance, however these employees cannot be used for production.

  • Regarding Federations, Groups, And Groups of Unions; The law allows for the Executive Branch to constitute a National Workers Board that will consist of representatives from the various union groups and federations that exist, who will act in an advisory capacity. The Executive Branch will also designate who will attend any international labor or union meetings or conferences in places like the UN for example.

Nicking At The Corners: Once again, I see these changes as a minor shift of power towards business owners, and a slight loss of power for labor unions. Workers still have the right to strike and to collective bargaining, their primary weapon. Business owners now are guaranteed access to their plants and facilities during a strike, to ensure their equipment and machinery does not deteriorate during the course of a strike. Employers cannot hire replacement workers during a strike, and they cannot use maintenance or administrative personnel for production. I think these elements simply address some of the concerns and problems that have emerged during recent labor stoppages, and the details of this law certainly do not include all of the extreme measures the SUNTRACS guys were screaming about, when they alleged the law would supposedly "eliminate their right to strike." I covered a SUNTRACS march last week, and their concerns that this new law would eliminate their right to strike were completely unfounded. However, no matter - as usual they just used the issue to get some face time on television, and their leader Saul Mendez was even allowed to speak before the National Assembly. In other words, it was political. The SUNTRACS is now little more than a political arm of the extreme left in Panama, which supports the politics and policies of Hugo Chavez. The full text of the Articles in question follow below, so if you are so inclined you can read them for yourself. (more)

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Labor Ministry Finds Undocumented Foreigners Working in San Miguelito

Employment & JobsThe Ministry of Labor conducted inspections in night clubs in San Miguelito on Thursday night, discovering 15 undocumented people, said the director Victor Cordoba. The inspectors, working together with the National Police, inspected 11 businesses in the area, finding cases of foreigners who were working without work permits and without proper immigration documents. Several of them resisted by refusing to produce documents or permits. Some of the companies did not even have business licences. The foreigners discovered were Venezuelan, Chinese, Colombian and Dominican. Surprise inspections will continue, to ensure the companies and individuals are complying with the law. (La Estrella)

Editor's Comment: Interesting. They conduct a raid on Thursday night, but this time it's not immigration, but rather the Ministry of Labor. The last few weeks in a row Immigration has been rounding up women who are in Panama legally as tourists, but since they were found to be sitting in a bar across the street from the Marriott Hotel (which, according to the Director of Immigration is a "Red Zone" whatever that means) they were hauled away and jailed illegally for more than two weeks. They were only released after they paid bribes of between $1,000 to $1,500 each. Notice this article does not say what happened to the women. It doesn't even say they were women. The only indication that this was another raid and a continuation of the series of Thursday night raids was that they went to "night clubs" which normally means something having to do with prostitution - like strippers or massage parlors. Were they taken to the holding cells in Immigration? Has the Ministry of Labor jumped onto the gravy train of squeezing bribes from tourists who are working as impromptu prostitutes? Panamanian journalists are now investigating all of this and you'll see it on television soon.

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22% Of Companies Plan To Hire More Workers in Panama

Employment & JobsAbout 22% of businesses in Panama plan to hire more workers during the third quarter of 2010, according to an "Employment Outlook Survey" conducted by Manpower of Panama. When asked: "Do you anticipate a change to your organizations labor force for the next quarter?" - Of the 620 companies that participated in the survey, 136 (22%) said they would be increasing their staffs from July to September of this year. Only 37 (6%) said they would be reducing the size of their staff, while 446 (72%) said they would remain at the same level of staffing. Eric Quesada, Manpower's regional director for Central America and the Dominican Republic, said the outcome of the survey held in Panama was good, but more training is needed, because one in three companies reported they cannot find qualified staff. (El Siglo)

Editor's Comment: Panama's economy continues to grow at a steady clip, and a growing economy generates more jobs. Notice, that while 22% say they intend to hire more people, 33% say they cannot find qualified workers. Maybe there would be more companies hiring more employees, if those employees were available to be hired?

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INADEH Training Panamanians To Fill Panama Canal Expansion Jobs

Employment & Jobs The Director of INADEH, Temístocles Rosas , said on the Channel 2 TVN morning newscast that Panama has the human resources required for the expansion of the Panama Canal. Rosas said the INADEH signed an agreement to train the personnel required by the Panama Canal in technical areas, and to that end they have also been working together with the Ministry of Labor (MITRADEL). Rosas said the INADEH is keeping the Panama Canal Authority informed and he displayed a matrix showing the types of technicians that are needed, and that the training of these people is underway. Recently INADEH and the "Grupo Unidos por el Canal" (who won one of the primary contracts) signed an agreement to meet the training requirements, according to the academic offerings of the institution, and the introduction of new programs that complement the demand for skilled personnel. An INADEH bulletin states the most sought after positions are: earth moving foreman, electrical line foreman, heavy equipment maintenance foreman, high voltage line worker, carpenters, mechanics, first and second grade equipment operators, plumbers, steel workers, welders, electricians, electrical mechanics, lineman, among others. Rosas said the INADEH has the capability to train Panamanians in different areas, complying with the profile and international certification to provide skilled manpower which will be required by all aspects of the work being done on the waterway. (TVN Noticias)

Editor's Comment: There's a huge difference between some dude who just graduated from a government sponsored eight week course in welding or whatever, and someone who has thirty years of experience. I understand that these jobs are being created here in Panama, and there is both a need and a desire to fill these positions with Panamanian labor. The unemployment rate continues to fall, the birth rate remains relatively stable, but yet the economy is expanding by leaps and bounds. Strategically speaking, that translates into a labor shortage in the mid-term. I suspect Panama will eventually start handing out short-term "labor visas" or something like that, to allow foreign workers to come to Panama specifically to work on the expansion of the Panama Canal. However "built by the lowest bidder, using rookie labor" is not exactly the picture the ACP wants to paint, I'm sure.

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Labor Minister Clashes With Unions

Employment & Jobs Union leaders received another barrage of criticism from the Minister of Labor and Social Development (MITRADEL), Alma Cortez. This time, Cortes reported a series of situations that occur within the walls of the unions. And she vowed to solve these problems even if the law needs to be changed. About the National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO) the Minister said they don't do anything and simply spend their time fighting to see who will go to the International Labour Organization conference (ILO) and collect the $15,000 allowance. About the Single National Union of Construction Industry Workers (SUNTRACS), the minister said they have millions of dollars deposited in the bank and that she would verify to see if those funds are being used to train workers. Cortes announced that she has labor auditors available to investigate all unions, if requested by just 10% of the membership. And she said she has received complaints from workers who say they do not receive anything in exchange for their union dues. Genaro Lopez, SUNTRACS leader, said he did not know it was wrong to deposit the union dues paid by their members into a bank account. He said they send quarterly reports to MITRADEL. "This is a persecution." Rafael Chavarria, of the CONATO, said that "this is a dream of the minister" because MITRADEL can not audit anything, it is the unions that have this function. (La Estrella)
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Vallarino - "No Plans To Change The Labor Code"

Employment & JobsPanama's Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino said that all of the comments and adverse reactions arising out of the statements he made on possible reforms to the labor code, are the product of mere speculation and that there is "nothing concrete" on this. "No proposal to reform the labor code has been presented at any time, and what's less has there been any thought or conversation in the government on the ideas and themes that people have been speculating about such as to eliminate days off or overtime," said Vallarino, who blamed the "opposition" for all of the controversy that has arisen on these issues. "There is nothing at this stage that has been discussed within the Government, to be submitted any time soon to the public," he said. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: Last week Vallarino made some statements that were interpreted by labor leaders to mean he was planning to submit a reform to the labor code. Apparently, they are not considering any such changes, and this is all about the SUNTRACS guys looking for a way to start a fight and to get their people riled up, over nothing.

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42,366 New Jobs in Panama - Thus Far 2010

Employment & JobsBy DON WINNER for Panama-Guide.com - The Contract Analysis section of the Ministry of Labor in Panama registered 8,815 new labor contracts between 1 to 15 March 2010. Of those new employment contracts, 6,811 were men and 2,004 were women. Of the total, 3,559 are for a specific or defined period of time, and the remaining 2,402 are indefinite positions. Thus far in 2010, counting January, February, and the first two weeks of March, a total of 42,366 new labor contracts have been signed and registered with the Ministry of Labor and Workforce Development, reflecting strong growth in the national economy. According to a press release, "these indicators also reflect the confidence of the private sector in the economic policies of President Ricardo Martinelli, which when added to the new jobs being produced by mega-projects such as expansion of the Panama Canal, the construction of the "Coastal Strip" and other large-scale projects, show how this government is working to ensure a better Panama reaches everyone." Panama is a relatively small country with a population of only 3.4 million people. The fact that the Ministry of Labor recorded 42,366 new jobs in the country thus far in 2010 is good news, and a further indication that the country is well positioned to continue its economic growth and development. Employment and job creation is a lagging indicator - meaning the decisions are made, contracts are signed, permits and permissions sought, all before any real numbers of people are hired to do the work. There are people putting deals together right now that will produce even more jobs in twelve to eighteen months down the road. An expanding or growing economy creates more jobs and puts people to work. Panama's economy continued to expand over the last two years while most of the rest of Latin America was contracting. (Source - Press Release)

Copyright 2009 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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257 Railroad Workers Get Paid After 13 Years of Waiting

Employment & JobsAmidst a mix of satisfaction and confusion, the Panamanian Government yesterday presented checks worth $15.6 million dollars to 257 former railroad employees who had to wait nearly 13 years for the payment of their services. One of those who was surprised when he received his check was José Alexis Acevedo, 63, upon discovering the government had deducted $8,000 dollars for income taxes and educational insurance. Acevedo said his lawyers told him he should get this money back, and that instead of receiving $45,000 he got $36,000 and he has not ruled out the possibility of filing a claim with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. According to the representative of the former employees, Donald Miller, these salaries are for 88 months of work, and therefore he thinks the cancellation of this debt represents "a chapter of our lives that we can now close." President Ricardo Martinelli, who was present and the ceremony to present the checks to the former railroad workers, told those present that "it's never too late for good news." "After eight months in office, I see the things that happened during previous administrations, and this was so simple and easy but they did not resolve the problem (...) what was missing here was a will, a desire to go good, what I saw (from past administrations) was a desire to see how far they could extend this or how long they could delay paying, and to take away from you all that they could, and today we are doing justice," said the President. In a playful tone he said there is still another issue pending - payments to the former dockworkers - and he instructed the authorities to accelerate the negotiations. On this particular issue, he said there is no need for these people to pay lawyers because the negotiations will be conducted in a favorable environment. "Don't let the lawyers scam you for 20% of the money, when there is a good will (on our part) to do things, then things get done and this government keeps it's word to the people," he said. (Source - La Critica)

Editor's Comment: Back in 1997 the Government of Panama under former president Ernesto Perez Balladares privatized the railroad. These 257 former government employees were basically fired from one day to the next and tossed out on their asses. A long series of legal battles ensued and eventually they won a judgement from the Supreme Court which said the government of Panama owed them the money. This judgement was handed down a long time ago, during the administration of Martin Torrijos, who never saw fit to actually cut the checks and pay the workers what they legally had coming to them. Ricardo Martinelli's administration finally did what should have been done in 1997 - they took care of their employees. I remember meeting a handful of these people several years ago, as they marched towards the offices of the Comptroller to hold yet another protest. Yesterday, they finally got paid. Good for them.

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New Minimum Wage Takes Affect Today

Employment & Jobs About 250,000 workers in Panama will see an increase in their paychecks today, as a result of the new increases to the minimum wage announced by the government at the end of last year, which takes effect as of today, 15 January 2010. However, there are many complaints and doubts. Every company is obliged to pay their employees at the new rates as per Executive Order Number 263, which regulates the minimum wage and specifies what has to be paid according to the type of commercial activity and region of the country. The Ministry of Labor has launched an information campaign using kiosks in shopping malls, where they have personnel working who can explain the charts and tables of the new minimum wage. What's more, anyone who has a question can call the Ministry of Labor at 560-1100 for inquiries or complaints. (Source: Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro Reporta)
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Our fear to compete

Employment & JobsBy Jaime Raúl Molina for Panama-Guide.com - We in Panama have a series of artificial barriers created by legislative action, that make it extremely difficult for businesses in the country to hire the services of highly qualified foreign employees. This, instead of benefitting Panamanian workers as is the declared intention, results in a reduced competitiveness for Panamanian businesses in a global marketplace.

A Mistaken Economic View

The view above expressed is a labour policy based on an economic fallacy, that sees job positions as a pie of fixed size, and that the least people there are to share the pie, the greater the specific portions will be for each one. A zero sum game, in sum. However, in a globalized marketplace, it is competitive advantages what makes businesses and economic actors more competitive.

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Today The Government Will Define The Future of COOSEMUPAR

Employment & Jobs
Bananas Are (Were) Big Business in Panama
Bananas Are (Were) Big Business in Panama
By FLOR BOCHAREL in Puerto Armuelles, CHIRIQUÍ for La Prensa - Today, the evaluation commission to define the future of the Multiple Services Cooperative of Puerto Armuelles Fruit Company (Coosemupar) will announce if the only company interested in buying the banana business, Centro de Distribución de Toscana (CEDIT), complies with the guidelines established or not. After the time allowed for the submission of proposals, the lawyer Enzo Polo, who represents the companies Agro K and Boquerón Trading, who withdrew their bids, says that CEDIT is not qualified to participate because it owes money to Coosemupar for fruit sold through the Agricultural Commodity Exchange years ago. In that sense, the national director of Bananas, Roberto Santamaria, said the existing claims between Coosemupar and CEDIT will be addressed in two areas, the claims for current accounts for the purchase and sale of fruit and claims for damaged fruit, that were either not purchased (rejected) or not delivered, but he explained that on these topics there is no pending litigation. On Tuesday the government will make its official announcement on whether the company will manage the banana business, in David at 8:00 am.
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Minimum Wage in Panama Raised To As High As $416 Per Month

Employment & JobsBy OHIGGINIS ARCIA JARAMILLO for La Prensa - The waiting has ended. The Panamanian government issued an executive order yesterday establishing new minimum wages which will take effect starting 1 January 2010. This measure, which will put more money into the pockets of 250,000 workers, includes classifications into two zones. Zone One - comprised of Panamá, Colón, San Miguelito, David, Santiago, Chitré, Aguadulce, Penonomé, La Chorrera, Arraiján and the District of Bocas del Toro - increases were approved from $33 to $95 dollars per month. In other words, the new minimum wage will increase from from $357 to $416 per month. The rest of the country is in Zone Two, where minimum wages will increase from $31 to $95 per month. This means that the minimum wage will go from $349 to $ 416. For both areas, the minimum wage varies according to activity and occupation. Panama's president Ricardo Martinelli described the increase as "an act of justice never before seen in the past 50 years," however both employers and employees are unhappy with the decision. (Editor's Comment: Obviously, business owners wanted to pay less and employees wanted to get more, which is why both sides are "unhappy." In Panama most people work a 45 hour week or about 180 hours in a month. Even at the highest rate of $416 per month that still only works out to about $2.31 per hour. This increase will put about an additional $15.7 million dollars per month into circulation in the Panamanian economy, and of course employers will now increase their prices to pass additional labor costs onto the public, so expect prices to rise slightly across the board, especially in those businesses such as retail outlets and grocery stores that rely heavily on minimum wage workers.)
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Panama's Government Continues To Evaluate Minimum Wage Increase

Employment & Jobs By Kathyria Caicedo for Telemetro - The government was supposed to announce an increase to the minimum wage today, but they decided to postpone the announcement. Currently, the minimum wage is $325 per month. Hernán García Aparicio, the Secretary of the Labor Ministry, confirmed that because the Minimum Wage Commission failed to reach agreement, the government thought it would be prudent to take a little longer to make a decision. According to Garcia, the main goal is to have an increase to the minimum wage that is in line with the country's situation. The decision should be announced before 31 December. In the Minimum Wage Commission, workers represented by Conato submitted a proposal to have the minimum wage increased to $625 per month, while employers say the increase should be to $360 or $370 per month.
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Business Sector Proposes 15% Minimum Wage Increase

Employment & JobsBy Chris Yee for El Siglo - After long hours of discussion, the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP) proposed an increase to 15% the minimum wage. The increases could range from $ 6.30 to $ 41.50 per month. Business leaders presented numbers that could take effect starting in 2010, however workers are insisting on an increase of almost 100%. The proposal made by CONEP calls for a minimum wage of $650 per month. Antonio Graell, the leader of the National Council of Organized Workers (CONATO), refuted the figures presented by the business sector. For Graell, there is a sufficient basis to pay a minimum wage above $600 dollars per month. "Next week we will gather and analyze the proposal," he said. According to a CONEP press release, the economy is currently experiencing the negative effects of the international financial crisis, which is holding Panama's economy to annual growth of only 2% to 2.5%, which does not favor the workers' proposal. The workers are betting that the Ministry of Labor review and eliminate one of the three areas they currently govern. Currently the best paid workers are in the construction sector where they make a minimum wage of $1.87 per hour, while the lowest paid workers are in the agricultural sector, earning just $1.01 per hour, the same as that paid by small businesses. The tripartite committee met yesterday behind closed doors starting early in the morning, and they did not emerge to discuss the progress they had made until 3:00 pm that afternoon. The committee members agreed to meet again next Wednesday, 2 December 2009, and if they don't reach an agreement then the final decision will be in the hands of the government. The current minimum wage in Panama is $325 per month, one of the highest in Central America, however monthly basic food costs reach $272 per month. CONATO is asking for a minimum wage of $650 per month. (Editor's Comment: These discussions over an increase to the minimum wage have been going on for a few weeks now, and I suspect the government will announce an increase that will take effect on 1 January 2010. The final number will almost certainly be more than what the business leaders are offering, and less than what the union leaders are asking. No matter what, whatever happens will probably be the largest single increase in the minimum wage in recent history. This is another area where Ricardo Martinelli is following through on campaign promises made during the election cycle.)
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Government Proposes Segmentation and 30% Minimum Wage Increase

Employment & Jobs By MANUEL LUNA G. for La Estrella - PANAMA. A caretaker of a luxury building and a store clerk could earn a new minimum wage of nearly $420 starting in January 2010. This is with the government proposal to increase the minimum wage by up to 30% for the ten job categories which have registered the most dynamism and financial growth. A total of 243,000 workers currently receive the minimum wage and more than 150,000 of them could receive the increase. But the proposal does not seem to have many adherents. The president of the National Council of Private Enterprise (CONEP), Gaspar Garcia de Paredes, believes that an increase of 30% "is too much." While yesterday CONATO "flatly rejected" the segmentation of activities proposed by the government. Union leader Alfredo Graell argues that the increase should be equal for all, to prevent evasions in business. (Editor's Comment: The government of Panama has been discussing an increase to the minimum wage for months. What remains to be decided is how much, and how it will be implemented. Obviously the business sector wants to pay less, and the workers want more. There will be an increase, probably before the end of the year, but the details are yet to develop.)
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Workers Ask for $650 Minimum Wage

Employment & JobsTVN Noticias - The labor sector is seeking a minimum wage of $650, a general wage increase and a freeze on prices of basic food, said Rafael Chavarria. The Minimum Wage Commission, which includes representatives of workers, employers and the government, has finished doing the technical study and Chavarria said he would wait until the tripartite commission meeting that will be held in David tomorrow to announce the possibility of reaching an agreement. Chavarria also said the labor sector disagrees with the government over the current level of unemployment. On this point, Chavarria says unemployment stands between 11% and 12% and not less than 10%, which is why he considers that the number cited by the government is not consistent with reality.
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Unemployment rises to 6.6% in Panama

Employment & JobsPANAMA (AFP). The jobless rate reached 6.6% in Panama in August, one percentage point increase over the same month last year, according to the Comptroller. According to the Household Survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, "the overall unemployment rate rose from 5.6% in August 2008, to 6.6% in August this year," said the Comptroller in a statement. Unemployment is higher in urban areas (7.9%) than rural (3.9%) and affects more women (8.9%) than men (5.1%). "In fact just the loss of 2,131 jobs (in the midst of international crisis) according to the survey estimate is minimal," said Minister of Economy and Finance, Alberto Vallarino. Unemployment rose due to the completion of various infrastructure projects in the first six months of the year and due to the economic crisis "that has affected certain sectors," the minister told RPC Radio. According to the survey, the economically active population reached 4.2 million, up 2% from a year ago. The Atlantic province of Colon had the highest unemployment rate (10.4%) and the Darien jungle of the lowest (1.4%) with indigenous areas (1%), detailed the Comptroller.
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