The last gate to be used on a new set of locks on the Panama Canal
Panama City - AFP
Striking workers on the Panama Canal expansion reached an agreement Saturday with the consortium overseeing the work, ending the latest setback for the behind-schedule over-budget upgrade.
The management agreed to an audit on overtime payments, compensation leave and work hours, as well as to reinstate a worker dismissed over a dispute with a supervisor, said union leader Abelardo Herrera
A high-level committee would be tasked with deciding on payment for strike days, Herrera added, saying the workers did not want the issue to impede progress on the project.
Some 1,000 workers had begun a strike December 23 to demand better safety and treatment.
Union leaders had said three workers had received electric shocks recently because their managers had forced them to work in the rain.
Labor ministry official Samuel Rivera said he was very satisfied with the agreement, adding "the most important thing is that they succeeded in establishing internal dialogue (consortium and workers) that had been broken and which could avoid stoppages in the future."
Work began in 2007 to expand the canal with a third set of locks to enable it to handle the modern mega-freighters that global shipping companies prefer.
But the $5.25 billion project has been plagued by delays, strikes and a bitter dispute over $1.6 billion in cost overruns with the consortium carrying out the upgrade, led by Spanish construction firm Sacyr.
Initially scheduled for completion in 2014, the project's due date has been pushed back to early 2016.