Panama: government withdraws anti-labor law

After 90 days of negotiations with unions and other social organizations, on Oct. 10 the government of right-wing Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli approved an agreement to rescind a controversial law and replace it with a package of six separate laws. The original Law 30—which was passed in June and quickly became known as the “sausage law” because so many different measures were stuffed into it—ignited strikes and protests by unions and environmental groups that resulted in at least two deaths in July and forced the Martinelli government to negotiate.

According to Genaro López, a leader of the large, militant Only Union of Construction and Similar Workers (SUNTRACS), the agreement eliminates the main features of Law 30 that the social movements opposed. López said the agreement removes Article 28, which allowed police agents to avoid prison when they committed criminal acts in the exercise of their functions, and restores a requirement for environmental impact studies for development projects, along with dues checkoffs for unions and a ban on hiring replacement workers in the case of a strike. The government still needed to send the new package of laws to the National Assembly for approval. (EFE, Oct. 10, via, Spain; Prensa Latina, Oct. 10)

President Martinelli remains popular despite the opposition to Law 30. A poll the Unimer company conducted for the daily La Prensa from Oct. 7 to Oct. 11 gave him an approval rating of 69.4%. But a year ago, after three months in office, Martinelli had an approval rating of 85.9%; it had fallen to 65.7% by the summer. La Prensa noted that the 3.7% improvement in his October rating coincided with the success of the negotiations over Law 30. (EFE, Oct. 16, via Infolatam)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 17.

See our last post on Panama.