A six-day strike at the Panama Canal's $5.2-billion Third-Lane Expansion has ended with the project consortium and workers agreeing to a 13% wage hike. The new hourly rates are reportedly $3.34 and $3.96 per hour for skilled labor, up from the previous $2.90 per hour.
The work stoppage at the $3.12-billion locks construction at the waterway's Atlantic and Pacific sides was organized by SUNTRACS, a local construction labor union. The project construction consortium—led by Spanish contractor Sacyr Vallehermoso SA and including Italy's Impregilo, Belgium's Jan de Nul and Panama's Constructora Urbana—employs nearly 6,000 mostly Panamanian workers.
Thousands of workers walked off the job on Jan. 16 over better wages and working conditions. They demanded a worker base-pay hike to $4.90, with additional hikes for more skilled workers. Some demands reportedly called for a raise to $10 an hour.
In a Jan. 20 statement, the consortium described the strike as "illegal" and denied the allegations of mistreatment. The consortium said many of the workers went without pay in January due to a payroll error, but that has since been resolved and affected employees have received any backpay owed. The consortium said the government would have to authorize any minimum-wage hike. Panama's labor ministry had convened a roundtable for the consortium and union leaders to help resolve the dispute. As of Jan. 23, the strike had not affected dredging and dry excavation work nor ship traffic through the canal, officials said.