The Panamanian Association of Business Executives (APEDE), one of the most important business associations in the country, said today that Panama loses about $30 million in every day of strike staged by construction workers, which began last Wednesday to claim a salary increase.
"We are losing as a country about $30 million a day due to this strike, so if we have six days, we lose $180 million," said the president of the business association, Héctor Cotes.
The executive, who gave an interview to a local television, explained that the repercussions of the strike go beyond the construction strike, since "the financial commitments are inescapable and the banks have to be paid at the end of the month".
"This is a ripple effect and we urge both parties to sit down to negotiate and put on the table the best interests of the country," Cotes said.
The Panamanian Chamber of Construction (Capac) and the National Union of Construction Workers and Similar Industries (Suntracs) have been negotiating for months a new collective agreement, which will be in force from this year until 2022.
Although the parties have managed to reach consensus on most of the clauses, the negotiations ran aground on the salary adjustment and, in the absence of agreement, the Suntracs started an indefinite strike last Wednesday, which keeps 95 percent of the country's projects suspended, according to the union.
"We are at a time when the economy is growing, but not in different sectors such as trade or construction (...) The salary in the construction sector is one of the highest not only in the country but also in Latin America. Currently a beginner earns $ 800 and, if we add 50 percent, we are talking about $ 1,200," said the president of Apede.
The construction employers initially proposed 0.5 percent wage increase over the next four years, equivalent to 2 percent in 2022, while the union demanded that the total adjustment be 60 percent, that is, 15 percent each year.
The leaders of both unions, who on Monday will resume negotiations, have acknowledged that their original proposals are "extreme" and have been willing to lower their claims.
The Suntracs affiliates handed out flyers (sheets) throughout the country on Monday, while on Tuesday they will mobilize "in different roads," union leader Saúl Méndez announced Saturday.