Over 100 ITF inspectors have joined a march in Panama City against government attacks on the rights of Panamanian transport workers and the Panama Canal Authority’s (PCA) unwillingness to discuss concerns about the safety of new locks.
They protested with hundreds of workers from unions that are part of the ITF Panama national coordinating committee (NCC). They delivered their message to the presidential palace, where representatives met the Vice Minister of the Presidency and the Vice Minister of Labour.
Ivan de la Guardia, from the ITF Panama NCC said: “The ITF credo of solidarity was demonstrated emphatically on the streets of Panama City as the Panamanian workers marched together with their European, Asian, African and American sisters and brothers to expose, at the presidential palace, all the abuses they are facing today.
“Their hope of redemption remains alive as they wait on a definitive response from the government and canal authorities.”
You can see a video of the march here.
The ITF has consistently raised concerns about the safety of new locks in the Panama Canal, but the PCA has refused to meet the unions to discuss the matter.
The inspectors were meeting in Panama City for the ITF worldwide inspectors’ seminar (LINK to: http://www.itfglobal.org/en/news-events/press-releases/2015/october/inspectors-meet-in-panama-to-strengthen-frontline-of-the-itf/). Every three years they meet to learn new skills and develop plans for the delivery of ITF objectives.
They were reminded that they are on the frontline, fighting for seafarers across the world.
Chair of the ITF seafarers’ section Dave Heindel said: “We’re pursuing fairness and justice for seafarers everywhere and in that pursuit inspectors are our soldiers. They have unique access to seafarers and unique knowledge about the challenges involved in a life at sea. Our mission this week is to strengthen the inspectorate further, to facilitate joint working and particularly at this point to build the campaigning capacity of the inspectorate network.”
Inspectors are union officials working in ports all over the world on issues related to the ITF flags of convenience campaign. Their role is to ensure seafarers have decent pay, working conditions and living conditions by carrying out inspections on ships calling in their ports. They also assist with actions to protect seafarers' rights.
For stories from seafarers around the world and the work of the inspectorate, go to www.itfseafarers.org.