On Thursday, workers demonstrated before the headquarters of the parliament and several parts of the country against bill 354. The bill reforms the current Labor Code and establishes measures such as the reduction of the working day and the amount of the extraordinary annual bonus known as the thirteenth month as well as the suspension of contracts until December.
The unions consider it a violation of the fundamental rights of workers as it opposes the current Labor Code, created in 1971.
"They have condemned the majority of the Panamanian people to hunger, misery, and neglect. This project does not solve the problems of workers who are on suspended contracts and without wages; neither does it solve hunger or subsidies, this is to steal from the poor and give to the rich," said the general secretary of the Single Union of Construction Workers and the Like (Suntracs), Saúl Méndez.
"Today, once again, the organized forces of the workers, such as @ conusi1 @ suntracs1 @frenadeso, among others, can be found on the premises of the @ asambleapa, where the third debate on Bill 354 which allows the suspension of contracts until December 2020."
On Friday, unions called for protests against the bill as it was passed after the third debate. However, the law project has yet to be signed into law by Panama's President, Laurentino Cortizo.
The unions have said that they will keep demonstrating against the bill as it only applies to companies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, thousands of informal workers or people whose contracts were suspended are left unprotected.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Labor claims there are registered 241,000 active, yet suspended contracts as part of the Panama Solidarity Program," which allows such workers to receive a bonus or aid voucher of $100.
However, since the beginnings of the pandemic, unions have denounced that this monthly bonus does not reach all workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.