Panama construction strike ends, canal expansion work resumes

PANAMA CITY Thu May 8, 2014 2:25pm EDT

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PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Construction workers in Panama ended a nationwide strike on Thursday, allowing the expansion of its famous canal to resume after a delay of more than two weeks.

"Work has partially resumed today ... it is estimated staff as a whole will gradually return in the coming days," Grupo Unidos por el Canal, the consortium expanding the waterway, said in a statement.

The consortium, led by Spain's Sacyr and Italy's Salini Impreglio, declined to say whether the December 2015 target date for its completion would be pushed back.

Construction workers walked out fifteen days ago, demanding higher wages, halting work on hundreds of projects, including building a third set of locks for the Panama Canal.

Earlier this year, a dispute between the consortium and the Panama Canal Authority over $1.6 billion in cost overruns stopped work on the project for several weeks.

The two sides are still fighting over who should foot the bill through an international arbitration panel.

(Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Simon Gardner and Jeffrey Benke)

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