Hundreds of transport workers, including over 100 of inspectors of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) took to the streets of Panama City on October 15th in a march against what they described as government attacks on the rights of Panamanian transport workers and the Panama Canal Authority’s (PCA) unwillingness to discuss safety concerns.
The workers, members of unions that are part of the ITF Panama national coordinating committee (NCC), delivered their message to the presidential palace, where representatives met the Vice Minister of the Presidency and the Vice Minister of Labour.
Ivan de la Guardia, from the ITF Panama NCC said: “The ITF credo of solidarity was demonstrated emphatically on the streets of Panama City as the Panamanian workers marched together with their European, Asian, African and American sisters and brothers to expose, at the presidential palace, all the abuses they are facing today.
“Their hope of redemption remains alive as they wait on a definitive response from the government and canal authorities.”
The ITF said that it has consistently raised concerns about the safety of new locks in the Panama Canal, but the PCA has refused to meet the unions to discuss the matter.
“We’re pursuing fairness and justice for seafarers everywhere and in that pursuit inspectors are our soldiers. They have unique access to seafarers and unique knowledge about the challenges involved in a life at sea. Our mission this week is to strengthen the inspectorate further, to facilitate joint working and particularly at this point to build the campaigning capacity of the inspectorate network,” said Chair of the ITF seafarers’ section Dave Heindel.
Inspectors are union officials working in ports all over the world on issues related to the ITF flags of convenience campaign. Their role is to ensure seafarers have decent pay, working conditions and living conditions by carrying out inspections on ships calling in their ports.