A press release issued by the affiliate of BWI, the Union of Construction Workers (SUNTRACS) of Panama, reports a strike agreed by 5,000 workers of Minera Panama affiliated to this union "for massive layoffs and other labour situations and arbitrariness of the transnational" mining company.
First Quantum Minerals, headquartered in Canada, controls 90 per cent of Minera Panama's company and operates copper, zinc, nickel and gold mining in countries such as Argentina, Peru, Turkey, Spain, Australia, Finland, Mauritania and Zambia. According to SUNTRACS, the exploitation of the copper mine will invoice about 70 billion dollars, but leave Panama only 2 per cent of those revenues and "all the environmental disaster" that open-pit mining is producing.
The company's subsidiary in Panama aims to be "the largest low-cost producer" of the group and despite its commitment to social responsibility and human rights, Panamanian workers are being massively dismissed and replaced by migrant workers with no labour rights and social security. This situation results in a deteriorated labour and salary conditions for workers.
According to the union, the company has hired armed hit men "accompanied by police" to intimidate workers. Four other leaders of SUNTRACS were arrested by security units at the service of the company. The company also proceeded to cut cell phone and internet communications to workers and maintains a policy of harassment and provocations against workers through roadblocks and barricades to prevent workers' meetings.
The International calls on the company's general management and government authorities to negotiate with SUNTRACS and respect international labour standards.