At the peak of the first wave of Covid-19, the Government of Panama established an ad-hoc Tripartite Dialogue Table for Labour Economy and Development by Ministerial Decree N. 150 of 27 April 2020 to discuss key social and economic matters and agree on possible solutions to the crisis.
The tripartite table was composed of the most representative business and workers’ organisations, including the National Council of Private Enterprises (Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada – CONEP) as well as trade unions representatives, including the National Council of organised workers (Consejo Nacional de Trabajadores Organizado – CONATO).
The discussions took place virtually with three technical Commissions (Labour Affairs; Legal and Economic Affairs, Work and Preservation of Employment; and Gradual Return to Work and Health) and the tripartite table concluded its work at the end of June 2020 with 23 agreements reached by consensus.
The agreements dealt with, among others:
- regulating food and digital vouchers, extension of benefits and scope of law 59 regarding the food allowances for workers,
- reducing temporarily working time without affecting hourly wages (by bipartite agreement at the company level),
- setting rules on establishing bipartite OSH committees to assess risks in the workplace,
- conflicts’ resolution within the committees,
- training on protective equipment.
Finally, an agreement was reached on the implementing regulation of the recently adopted Law on Telework (No. 126, 18 February 2020).
The regulation was formalised into the Executive Decree N. 133 of 16 September 2020, which introduced the voluntary nature of this form of work, as well as the right of the worker to disconnect, to be covered against professional risks, including when working remotely and to be protected in its privacy.
The employer is entitled to maintain a record of hours of work; he/she must provide the tools needed to perform work and reimburse the costs of internet and electricity, based on a prior agreement with the employee on how internet, electricity and other expenses will be measured.
CONEP welcomes this Decree for two main reasons:
- It constitutes a clear legal framework that ensures social peace and facilitates dialogue
- It has a certain degree of flexibility within the company as it requires, for instance, the prior agreement of the employer and the worker on the starting of telework, or other specificities of this form of work.
Analisa Montenegro, Executive Director of the CONEP, underlined how social dialogue in such a difficult situation has been “beneficial to the employers-employees’ relations but also to the entire economy. The 23 agreements are a great achievement, demonstrating the willingness of the social partners, supported by the Government, to contribute to a speedy recovery”.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) recognized Panama’s effort in promoting Social Dialogue and considered the tripartite outcomes as an “example for the region” when seeking solutions to the country's problems through dialogue.