Thursday, July 19, 2018

In special session, Puerto Rico Senate defeats bill to repeal unjust dismissals law

By on July 3, 2018

SAN JUAN – In a 16-4 vote, Puerto Rico’s Senate defeated Bill 1033, which seeks to repeal Act 80, the indemnification statute regulating dismissals when an employee alleges termination over an unjust cause.

An agreement between the governor and the island’s fiscal oversight board hinged on the repeal of the labor law for the latter to desist from requiring that a year-end worker salary and leave days be not be cut.

“Defeated; inform the governor,” Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz said.

The bill was requested by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Monday when he called for an extraordinary session convened to reach an agreement with the island’s fiscal oversight board.

“The discussion of this issue is not about a power struggle between the executive and the legislative [branches]. Nor is it a political fight between Ricardo Rosselló and this servant. Much less is it a strategy game to see who is responsible for what happens. What this is all about, is a dilemma of what duty is. A dilemma I don’t have,” Rivera Schatz said on the chamber’s floor.

The Senate’s president also argued that the agreement reached between the governor and the board was “a bad agreement, the governor is wrong. There is no economic foundation that justifies the repeal of Act 80, nowhere. The governor has not offered it, the economic cabinet of the governor has not offered it, no expert in fiscal and labor matters has offered it, the Board has not offered it,” he went on.

In a statement shortly after the vote, the governor said: “I called an extraordinary session, hoping the Senate would use the days that the Constitution provides for responsible and prudent consideration of all the measures on the agenda.

“The president of the Senate had stated last week that he wanted to find a solution via dialogue. Today, unfortunately, he closed [legislative] works without allowing for this discussion,” Rosselló said, referring to the fact that the Senate will now recess until July 12.

“The president of the Senate chose not to devote time to this matter,” the governor further said in his statement, “leaving our people with the uncertainty that noncompliance of the agreement with the Fiscal Oversight Board has caused.

Before the vote against the measure, the Senate passed Bill 1032, which allows for the establishment of a payment plan for municipalities’ outstanding debts with the central government.

In addition, the senators passed bill 1034, to an increase to unemployment benefit checks. Part of the special session’s agenda includes tax reform; however, the Senate cannot take action until the House of Representatives finishes its own consideration of the measure. The lower chamber has recessed until Monday.

–Cybernews contributed to this report.

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