Progress of the Panama Canal expansion project could hit a speed bump if a labour issue involving contractor Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) is not resolved on Monday.
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is concerned that the dispute over a wage increase could see 6,000 unionised workers of the National Union of Workers of Construction and Similar Industries (SUNTRACS) take their threatened strike action. The workers want the agreed 8.9% pay rise to be retroactive.
As of Monday morning there was still no resolution of the wage row.
GUPC is the main contractor for the Canal’s third set of locks project, which is 93% complete.
Under the expansion plan a third lane of traffic is being created in the Canal, hence the need for the third set of locks.
When complete the “supersized” Canal will be able to accommodate ships carrying up to 14,000 containers of freight, around triple the current maximum size.
Barring extended labour problems or other variables the expanded Canal is expected to be ready by April 2016 after a 10-year, $5.25 billion commitment.
The Panama Canal currently handles about 6 percent of world trade.
GUPC is a consortium whose members are Spain’s Sacyr, Italy’s Impregilo, Belgium’s Jan de Nul and Panama’s CUSA.