4 – Systematic violations of rights
The ITUC Global Rights Index

Panama

The ITUC affiliates in Panama are the Confederación de Trabajadores de la República de Panamá (CTRP), the Confederación General de Trabajadores de Panamá (CGTP) and the Convergencia Sindical (CS).

In practice

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Systematic labour rights violations at Panamanian mine16-03-2015

In March 2015, workers at the Cobre Panamá mine declared a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
over the systematic labour rights violations and the multiple forms of exploitation at the mine. Saúl Méndez, general secretary of the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores de la Construcción y Similares (SUNTRACS), told the press that the stoppage was a result of what he described as the “regime of terror” established by the company that owns the mine.

The workers were demanding respect for their most basic rights, including the payment of overtime, night shifts and work on Sundays, which are reflected in their wages, as well as adequate health care.

They were also protesting the illegal employment of over a thousand foreign workers as general labourers, replacing local workers. The company had returned to the practice of employing foreign labour illegally, despite having recently been instructed by the Labour and Manpower Development Ministry (MITRADEL) to dismiss some 300 foreigners who did not meet the migration rules regarding employment, following an inspection at the site.

The company, for its part, declared the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
illegal, alleging it had not been formally notified.

SABMiller Panama disregards collective bargaining rights and uses intimidation to prevent strike16-07-2015

On 1 June 2015, collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
negotiations were tabled at the Labour Ministry between Cervecería Nacional SA – SABMiller and the trade unions SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS and STICP. Both organisations, which between them represent over 80 per cent of the Cervecería Nacional workers, decided to form a strategic alliance to jointly negotiate and sign the new agreement.

The company categorically rejected this move and remained firm in its unyielding position, refusing to sign a new collective agreement with both unions and insisting on negotiating solely with the majority union.

Following several failed meetings, during which no progress was made and not a single clause was signed, the trade unions considered the arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
process closed and called a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
for 10 July 2015.

In the run-up to the planned strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
, the management put pressure on the workers to renounce their collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
rights and demands. They also prevented a number of active trade union leaders from accessing workplaces and used the strategy of withholding wages to force workers to abandon the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
plans.

DHL refuses to recognise collective bargaining and violates trade union rights11-08-2015

At the beginning of August 2015, workers belonging to the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Aviación Civil y Similares (SIELAS), affiliated to the ITF, demonstrated in front of the DHL offices in Panama City to denounce the company’s anti-union practices and to call for respect for trade union rights and the renewal of collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
negotiations, which had been suspended for six months.

SIELAS had previously presented a collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
proposal to the Labour Ministry, including123 clauses that would benefit over 240 DHL employees. The proposal was accepted and negotiations began. However, in January 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice accepted an appeal by DHL, suspending the negotiations on the grounds that SIELAS has no connection with the employment activities of DHL workers. The trade union filed a counterclaim, insisting that the workers’ link with the trade union is legitimate, by reason of the air operations carried out by DHL.

Panama Canal workers not trained for the expanded waterway16-10-2015

Panama Canal workers have denounced that they have not been trained for the passage of vessels along the new expanded lane, which represents a problem for them and their work. The workers, gathered in six trade unions, also referred to the labour problems with the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) during the closing session of an international seminar of maritime inspectors organised by the International Transport Federation (ITF).

The general secretary of the Unión de Prácticos del Canal de Panamá, Rainiero Salas, pointed out that the canal’s expansion implies major changes and yet the workers have not been involved in any information, consultation process, or training. He added that the trade unions, with their limited funds, have had to pay for their members’ training because “neither the ACP nor the Canal are providing any”.

The Canal workers have also denounced that the administration of the interoceanic waterway disregards the demands and aspirations for better pay and working conditions presented by the trade unions in collective negotiations. Representatives of the six Canal workers’ trade unions handed over a letter for President Juan Carlos Varela to officials from the Panamanian President’s Office, outlining their concerns, including concerns over the safety of the present canal and the expanded canal, the exclusion of workers from operational procedures, the lack of operational training for the new lane, the appalling state of the tugboats, and collective agreements that fail to recognise labour rights.

Politicisation of the justice system20-12-2015

According to the unions, the Supreme Court and its judges are politicising their rulings, as illustrated by the fact that they generally rule against workers and trade unions and the few rulings in favour of the unions are ineffectual, as they are not implemented and no action is taken when court orders are disobeyed.

The investigations into the murders of trade union leaders in 2007 and 2008, crimes that continued to go unpunished at the end of 2015, are emblematic of delayed justice.

Anti-union practices at Mi Bus company30-12-2015

During the course of 2015, unionised workers at Mi Bus, a company providing public transport in Panama City and San Miguelito, staged at least three strikes without reaching an agreement, having been forced to end their action following intimidation or threats from the government or the imposition of compulsory arbitration arbitration A means of resolving disputes outside the courts through the involvement of a neutral third party, which can either be a single arbitrator or an arbitration board. In non-binding arbitration, the disputing parties are free to reject the third party’s recommendation, whilst in binding arbitration they are bound by its decision. Compulsory arbitration denotes the process where arbitration is not voluntarily entered into by the parties, but is prescribed by law or decided by the authorities.

See conciliation, mediation
, on the grounds that transport is an essential service.

In response to the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
action, the workplaces were occupied, striking trade union leaders were arrested, without warrants, and the strikers were replaced by public servants and members of the national police, who stood in as drivers and provided passenger transport services, undermining the effectiveness of the stoppages.

Some of the workers and union leaders who took part in the strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
were dismissed or forced, in some cases, to sign a mutual agreement terminating the employment relationship.

Dismissals and arrests at PPC12-02-2016

In January 2016, the Chinese-owned Panama Ports Company, which operates in the Port of Balboa, unfairly dismissed, without the Labour Ministry’s authorisation, some 300 workers, all of whom were permanent employees, including many who had been with the company for over 10 years. According to the workers, their dismissal was motivated by the fact that they belonged to class-based trade unions and had taken part in a strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
.

On the night of 11 February, the workers partially stopped operations at two docks, in protest at the unfair dismissals. Police units intervened to disperse the demonstrators, arresting three workers, members of Rescate Sindical, who were released shortly afterwards, thanks to pressure from their colleagues, according to Ulises Arroyo, defence secretary of the Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores del Transporte por Vías Acuáticas y Afines de Panamá (SITRAVAAP).

Restrictions on the right to strike22-10-2015

The Panama Canal workers are demanding better working conditions but cannot exercise the right to strike strike The most common form of industrial action, a strike is a concerted stoppage of work by employees for a limited period of time. Can assume a wide variety of forms.

See general strike, intermittent strike, rotating strike, sit-down strike, sympathy strike, wildcat strike
given that the Constitutional Court denied them this right in 2010, leaving them with virtually no trade union and labour rights in practice. .

Restrictive and precautionary measures placed on the union leaders remained in force30-03-2015

On 25 July 2014, the Labour Minister withdrew the charges against nine trade union leaders. The charges had been brought by the previous Labour Minister in 2012 for alleged misappropriation of funds granted by the state for trade union capacity building. As at March 2015, the legal proceedings had been halted but the restrictive and precautionary measures placed on the union leaders remained in force, without the case being settled by the judicial system, despite the procedures undertaken by the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
in this respect and the withdrawal of the charges.

Dismissals at IRHE22-10-2015

In November 2014, the trade union SITIESPA filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against the state of Panama regarding the application of criteria in the dismissal of several thousand workers from the Instituto de Recursos Hidráulicos y Electrificación (IRHE), for which the method of calculating the indemnities owed was subsequently declared invalid, based on its illegality, by the Third Chamber of Justice of Panama. The trade union has, since then, appealed on numerous occasions to the Supreme Court to order the Panamanian state to compensate the former IRHE worker for damages caused as a result of this illegal method of calculation. In response to these demands, the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ruled, on two occasions, that the Panamanian state was liable to pay damages to the workers, but the Panamanian state was subsequently absolved during a third court proceeding. It is hoped that the Commission will settle the case definitively following on from this disparate decision, and that the violations will be addressed.

Free trade zone of Colón22-10-2015

In the Colon free trade zone, there has been a marked increase in the practices of hiring through private firms and employment agencies and subcontracting, which prevent workers from organising organising The process of forming or joining a trade union, or inducing other workers to form or join one. due to the lack of job security or their status as self-employed workers.

Panama Canal Authority seeks to break union09-06-2015

In November 2014 the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) petitioned the Supreme Court to suspend recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. of the tugboat captains’ union UCOC in what the International Transport Workers’ Union (ITF) described as “a classic case of union busting union busting Attempts by an employer to prevent the establishment of a trade union or remove an existing union, e.g. by firing union members, challenging unions in court, or by forming a yellow union. ”. The move came in an ACP appeal against a Labour Relations Board decision. It used the appeal to seek the de-recognition recognition The designation by a government agency of a union as the bargaining agent for workers in a given bargaining unit, or acceptance by an employer that its employees can be collectively represented by a union. and invalidation of UCOC. In August 2014 the ITF together with the UCOC, the Panama Canal Pilots Union (UPCP) the Marine Engineers Union (UIM) and the Panama Canal and Caribbean Union (SCPC) filed a complaint against the Government of Panama with the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Committee on Freedom of Association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
, for violations of Conventions 87 and 98 on freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
and collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
by the ACP. The ITF and the Panamanian trade unions say the ACP has failed to respect labour regulations, decisions by the National Labour Relations Board, compensatory guarantees concerning working conditions on the Panama Canal, good faith collective bargaining collective bargaining The process of negotiating mutually acceptable terms and conditions of employment as well as regulating industrial relations between one or more workers’ representatives, trade unions, or trade union centres on the one hand and an employer, a group of employers or one or more employers’ organisations on the other.

See collective bargaining agreement
and the ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
’s freedom of association freedom of association The right to form and join the trade union of one’s choosing as well as the right of unions to operate freely and carry out their activities without undue interference.

See Guide to the ITUC international trade union rights framework
principles.

Denial of fundamental civil rights, police brutality, and arrest of trade unionists31-10-2012

Protests in October 2012 against a law to sell land within the Colón Free Zone resulted in the death of at least three people, including a young boy. The community was deeply worried that the sale would result in the loss of an important source of income for the area. Residents formed a united front, including various community groups and trade unions. The government responded by unleashing a brutal wave of repression resulting in the deaths. In solidarity, trade unions demonstrated across the country. Again, the government responded by hiring thugs to break up the protest and vandalise buildings. Several trade unionists were arrested. The law was eventually repealed.

Violation of collective agreement19-08-2013

In violation of a collective agreement, the banana producer, Grupo San Bosco closed down two large plantations, falsely claiming bankruptcy, leaving more than 70 workers affiliated to the Sindicato Industrial de Trabajadores de Productores Bananeros Independientes (SITRAPBI) out of work.

Arrest of trade union leaders30-06-2012

In 2012, following protests by workers worldwide about the presence of President Ricardo Martinelli at the 101th ILO International Labour Organization A tripartite United Nations (UN) agency established in 1919 to promote working and living conditions. The main international body charged with developing and overseeing international labour standards.

See tripartism, ITUC Guide to international trade union rights
Conference, a warrant was issued for the investigation of the three Panamanian union leaders present at the Conference. During the judicial process, the government leaked several accusations against the leaders to the press in violation of due process rights.

No protection for domestic workers05-04-2012

Domestic workers – the majority of whom are women, as well as an increasing number of children - have no protection at all. Nearly 100,000 people in the sector have absolutely no labour rights, they are the victims of ill-treatment and abuse at the hands of their employers and in some cases work up to 15 hours a day in sub-human conditions. Many of these workers come from remote communities, they have no social security and earn poverty wages, far below the minimum wage. Nor do they have a trade union to represent them. There is a high level of informal employment in the sector, and child labour, as well as discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, gender and social origin.

First collective agreement with DHL in Latin America05-05-2010

In May, the airline staff union SIELAS (Empleados de Líneas Aéreas y Similares de la República de Panamá) managed to seal the negotiation of the collective agreement between SIELAS and DHL Aéreo Expreso S.A, which constitutes a major trade union breakthrough, this being the first collective agreement secured with DHL in the region.

Employers promote yellow unions to block collective bargaining30-11-2009

Companies continue to encourage the forming of yellow unions alongside existing unions with which they have already signed collective agreements, as a way of neutralising bona fide trade unions and negotiating inferior working conditions, gradually undermining and eliminating workers’ rights.
Another strategy to avoid complying with collective agreements is to dismiss unionised workers and hire foreign workers under inferior terms and conditions.

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