Panama Government Reverses, Tosses Out Controversial Law

October 11, 2010

PANAMA CITY The Panamanian government said it will scrap the controversial Law 30 and submit to Congress six separate bills addressing the widely disparate matters covered by the legislation, which was suspended since last July following a protest that ended with two people dead and hundreds injured.
 
President Ricardo Martinelli “has made the decision to present the National Assembly with six new bills and substitute Law 30 with these six, each with a single subject,” Deputy Labor Minister Luis Ernesto Carles told reporters.
 
The government agreed in July to completely revise the law approved in June, which sparked violent protests in the Caribbean province of Bocas del Toro.
 
Dubbed the “sausage law,” Law 30 originated as legislation to reform the civil aviation sector, but ended up stuffed full of unrelated provisions implying significant changes to labor laws and Panama’s penal code.
 
Among other things, Law 30 eliminated obligatory payment of union dues, allowed employers to fire or replace striking workers and authorized the use of police to protect the property of firms involved in labor disputes.
 
Another aspect of the legislation made it virtually impossible to fire, much less arrest, a police officer suspected of committing a criminal offense.
 
The July protests ended with a pact between the government and unions suspending the law and creating a 90 days negotiation process to discuss its contents, which will end in the next few days.
 
Carles said that before presenting the new bills, the negotiating process, in which representatives of government, the private sector, workers, Indians and the Catholic Church are taking part, must present its “basic results” about what will be discussed in the National Assembly.
 
For his part, Martinelli said he will call a special cabinet meeting to discuss everything related to the results produced at the negotiating table.
 
Union representatives at the negotiating table told reporters that they had made that proposal previously, and that they will be on the lookout to see that the changes agreed upon are respected.

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