Law 30 unleashes repression from the Martinelli government

With Alejandro John

Successful general strike


Within the framework of a government  attack against union wins and rights, Sirel discussed with Alejandro John, general secretary of  the Industrial Union of Soft Drink, Beverage, Soda, Beer, Liquor and Similar Beverage Production and Distribution Workers (SITRAFCOREBGASCELIS), who analyzed the present situation and the results of the general strike carried out on Tuesday 13.


-What is the scope of Law 30, which derogation you are demanding?

-It is an already existing law which was recently amended by the government. There are several aspects that we simply reject:  the first is referred to environmental protection because Law 30 empowers the Executive Branch to decide whether to perform or not a previous environmental impact assessment study, without intervention of the civil society.


Secondly, the law amends the labor system with a clear union destruction purpose. For instance, from now on, the union fee will not be deducted from the workers' wages by employers and delivered directly to unions. Instead, unions must collect dues from each individual worker.


Thus, according to this amendment, any worker will belong to the collective bargaining unit, regardless of his or her union affiliation or fee payment. This encourages workers to stop paying union dues and will eventually lead to union disappearance.


Also, the  ILO  Commission that studied the possibility of companies to enter the plants when there is a strike formally declared, did not make recommendations to Panama but observations. We think this is questionable Our view is that the democratic system establishes respect for the majority decisions and minorities must abide by democratic decisions.


Now, this law amendment authorizes employers to enter the premises.  Also administrative staff and non-strikers may enter the factories and management may appoint personnel to supposedly carry out maintenance of productive equipment. Before this amendment, maintenance personnel was selected by common agreement of employers and workers.


-So this is a strike breaking system...

-Factories will continue with production because the fines for breaking these agreements are absurdly low as compared with the losses provoked by a plant being stopped. This law amendment will prevent Collective Negotiation in Panama for the next five years.


-Please tell us about the national strike carried out today.

-At the  Coca Cola plants it reached 100 percent and 95 percent in the construction industry, while there were multiple partial strikes throughout the country, since workers were called to adhere through both types of union action.


-How is the relation between unions and Government?

-In Panama democracy is in jeopardy. We are experiencing generalized  intimidation, threats and persecution. We have twelve union leaders arrested. Banana workers from Bocas de Toro have been subject to ruthless repression, with some dead and more than 140 injured, many have lost one or both eyes as a consequence of  short distance pellet shots by the Police.


There is a second list of leaders who will supposedly be arrested and both I and another union officer from Coca Cola Panamá are included in that list. The situation is really complex, this is why we call on all sister organizations to be alert to this situation in our country.



From Montevideo, Carlos Amorín


July 14, de 2010





  UITA - Secretaría Regional Latinoamericana - Montevideo - Uruguay

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