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Panama: Banana strike in Bocas del Toro came to an end

Last night, with the mediation of the Minister of Labor and Workforce Development (Mitradel) Luis Ernesto Carles, the Workers Union of the banana industry and the Bocas Fruit Company reached an agreement that ended the strike involving 4,200 workers for the past week. .

The agreement states that the fruit company will suspend operations at the Finca 12 packing facilities for four weeks and that the workers will be relocated to the nearest farms, until September 15, 2015. According to the agreement, the conditions of the workers may not be lowered. 

Additionally, the agreement states that the Mitradel will carry out inspections at the new packing facility (Finca 12), where the Ministry, the Social Security Fund, the workers union and the company will have to participate for a month, until September 15, 2015. 

The institutions must also issue a technical document to determine if there are any damages to the health of workers while tests are conducted at the packing facility in Finca 12. The company is obliged to enable said packing facilities three times per week after the signing of this agreement. 

In addition, the agreement states that no legal action or reprisals against workers are to be taken.

The strike was called because the union leadership rejected the new system to select the fruit, which suppressed the old method of immersing and washing the bananas in a container with fresh water, and passes the fruit directly to a container with a solution that removes the latex from the bark of the banana, which would represent a saving in water consumption for the company. According to the union, this can affect the workers' health and it was also not included in the recently signed collective agreement. 

The intense negotiations lasted for several days and were attended, among others, by the general secretary of Sitraibana, Abel Baker, the secretary general of Mitradel, Samuel Rivera, the executives of the Bocas Fruit Company, Eliseo Obando and Roberto Chavez, the leader of the Confederation of Workers of the Republic of Panama, Rafael Chavarria, and the Governor of Bocas del Toro, Ubaldo Vallejos.

This was the first all-out strike that the Brazilian company has endured that acquired the interests of Chiquita Brands in Bocas del Toro. The company suffered losses during this week's strike as they were unable to export more than 200 thousand boxes of bananas. Meanwhile, according to unofficial estimates, the workers stopped receiving nearly $160,000 dollars in wages.


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