In 1979, when Law 34 was passed regulating port workers in Balboa and Cristobal, they were better off than their counterparts in the rest of the Republic of Panama, according to Dr. Guillermo Márquez Amado, first vice-president of the Panama Chamber of Shipping.
Article 21 of Law 34 states “wages are counted subject to time, any time served by the dock worker at the exclusive disposal of the employer, from inception to completion of work, according to the allocation system of gangs or specific jobs, therefore there is no base salary, as the wages of the port will be computed according to the specific working hours.”
The lawyer said that Panama, through the then National Port Authority (APN) could not handle those ports under different rules than those with workers existing prior to the signing of the treaties.
He explained that workers had different rules to those of the Labor Code of Panama. He also explained that Act 34 took into account standards applied by the Panama Canal Company for dock workers in Balboa and Cristobal.
The lawyer said that this law tried to bring rules in line with the Labor Code.
At the time there was a breakthrough and the workers wanted a standard.
In 1997, eighteen years after the enactment of this work standard, the Government of Panama granted the ports of Balboa and Cristobal under concession to Panama Ports Company, and a condition was that Law 34 of 1979 was included in the Contract Law of the port concession.
These were the same statements made by the company during the tripartite meeting in the National Assembly.
Article 34 of Law 34 states that “the work day is of 8 hours and the corresponding working week of 40 hours. The maximum night time shift is of 7 hours and the workweek is 35 hours respectively.”
Marquez said that this is being debated in the Assembly to know whether it is harmful to some of the parties. He concluded by reiterating that in the Treaties of 1977, there was a rule that forced Panama to upgrade its legislation governing labor rules before the Torrijos-Carter Treaty entered into force, because otherwise it lowered the conditions of workers.
Later, in article 36 of Act it states that “working time exceeding the maximum daily hours will be paid with a surcharge of 10%.”
Panama Ports Company argues that Act 34 of 1979 is a standard that conforms to the port industry in the sense that there are no fixed working hours (from 7 to 3 or 3 to 11) because ships arrive at the start of the schedule and they are either ahead or fall behind their itineraries and arrive within 24 hours. This labor legislation was visionary and fits these times in which Panama has become a port hub, says the company.
This post is also available in: Spanish