Workers strike Panama canal expansion project

By the Associated Press | January 17, 2012 | 4:05 PM EST

Cranes stand still during a strike by workers at the Panama Canal in Cocoli on the outskirts of Panama City, Tuesday Jan. 17, 2012. On Monday workers began striking to demand safer works conditions, overtime and holiday pay, as well as higher salaries. The Panama Canal is undergoing its biggest expansion project since it opened in 1914, which will allow larger Post-Panamax ships to cross the canal, and is scheduled to be completed in Aug. 2014. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

PANAMA CITY (AP) — About 6,000 workers have gone on strike for higher wages at a $5.25 billion project to widen the Panama Canal to accommodate larger ships.

Workers representative Rolando Gonzalez says the employees want the base wage raised from $2.90 per hour to $4.90, and the wage for the most skilled workers raised from $3.52 per hour to $7.10.

Employees of the multinational construction consortium Grupo Unidos por el Canal claim the firm has failed to pay them some overtime and vacation pay. They are also complaining about deficient workplace safety.

Gonzalez said Tuesday the strike will continue indefinitely. The company acknowledged in a press statement that some data-entry errors apparently had been committed when the company recently switched payroll systems.