House Bill 938 Would Void Right to Collective Bargaining
SAN JUAN – The cuts proposed in House Bill 938 to government employee vacation and medical leave, Christmas bonus, the employer’s contribution to healthcare coverage, and the elimination of overtime pay represent the dismantling of collective-bargaining rights and the impoverishment of the island’s working class, a union leaders said Wednesday.
Their statement were made during the measure’s second public hearing, which was pushed by the unions after a series of demonstrations against the bill were carried out Monday.
“House Bill 938 proves to be a frontal and ruthless attack on the right of workers to negotiate our wages and employment conditions… The bill seeks to cancel the collective agreements that have cost the working class so much effort and sacrifice,” the president of Puerto Rican Workers Central (CPT by its Spanish initials), Pedro Irene Maymí, said during the hearing, which lasted more than five hours.
Irene Maymí argued that workers “are not responsible for the fiscal crisis” and have already contributed by not getting salary increases for several years or negotiating collective-bargaining agreements since 2013. His main criticism was against cuts to health insurance contributions, which could threaten workers’ health, and recommended increasing the tax on foreign corporations (Act 154) from 4% to 10% to secure the funds required by the fiscal plan.
In response, Senate President, Thomas Rivera Schatz, left the door open to complying with that recommendation, though he urged union leaders to submit concrete alternatives to avoid cuts to public employees and curb their complaints.
The president of the United Public Servants (SPU by its Spanish initials), Annette González, said the measure not only impoverishes workers, but also “discourages” public service in Puerto Rico.
Meanwhile, the president of the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union Solidarity Program (Prosol Utier by its Spanish acronym) at the Highways & Transportation Authority, Juan Jacob Greenway, argued that the measure has the effect of “dividing” to conquer, because it places the benefits of public employees against those of corporations.