Panama: Banana farmworker strike ends after Chiquita removes security cameras

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Panama: Banana farmworker strike ends after Chiquita removes security cameras

The strike by Chiquita banana farmworkers in Panama that began in early April due to the company installing security cameras has now ended, according to local news reports.

Operations on the farms and in the packhouses were paralyzed for more than 16 days in the province of Bocas del Toro after the Banana Industry Workers Union (SITRAIBANA) called for industrial action.

The workers rejected the installation of security cameras in the plantations and packhouses, with many saying they felt "harassed and persecuted" by the technology.

The paralyzation resulted in heavy losses for Chiquita, with tens of thousands of boxes of bananas per day not being exported, in addition to fruit not being harvested and preventative treatment for Black Sigatoka on thousands of acres of farmland being put on hold.

The situation had been exacerbated by rains in Bocas del Toro since Wednesday that impacted the banana plantations.

Although the company said that it was a measure for the welfare of the workers, the general secretary of SITRAIBANA, Francisco Smith said the installation of the security system was unacceptable.

However, news website Metro Libre reported on Thursday that an agreement had been reached to put an end to the strike, following dialogue mediated by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development (MITRADEL).

Vice Minister of Labor and Social Development, Roger Tejada, reportedly said that the cameras had been removed.

Raúl Palacio, secretary of defense and labor of SITRAIBANA, was quoted as saying that "both parties gave fifty-fifty to return to normality in the banana packing process, which is what generates employment here."

Palacio added that there is a commission that will monitor these processes. "The cameras that were directly focused were withdrawn. The company said that it would not retaliate and the worker is returning to work," he said.

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