The Panama Canal expansion project may face a fresh setback if construction workers building the third set of locks opt to go on strike.
IHS Maritime was told that the labour action could begin on 12 August. The dispute is between the construction workers’ union, SUNTRACS, and the consortium building the third set of locks, GUPC. The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is not directly involved in the dispute.
According to GUPC, SUNTRACS has requested a new 8.9% wage increase in addition to the 11% increase given last year.
“The ACP has repeatedly appealed to both sides to reach an agreement on matters that, by law, only pertain to dealings between GUPC and SUNTRACS,” said the ACP.
“The ACP, although the ultimate owner of the project, is in no way responsible for labour issues arising from any failure on the part of GUPC to meet labour demands by its subcontractors. On the contrary, the ACP is deeply concerned about the situation and is following closely the developments on the matter as its business may be impacted directly if the work is not carried out efficiently and promptly to deliver the project on time,” said the ACP.
The project has already been delayed by a work stoppage due to a payment dispute between GUPC and ACP in February 2014 and a strike by SUNTRACS in April 2014.
Following the earlier dispute between GUPC and ACP, 28 milestones were put in place. Of those, 24 had been attained by the end of June 2015. Barring further substantial delays, the full commercial opening of the expanded Panama Canal is expected in 1H16.