Friday, September 22, 2017

Puerto Rico gov’s former rep to fiscal board denies negotiating workday cuts



By on September 1, 2017

SAN JUAN – The former government representative to the fiscal control board, Elías Sánchez, denied having presented workday cuts as an alternative to furloughing public employees.

Sánchez also denied the existence of a document in which he signed the possible implementation of workday cuts. If it exists, he demanded it be made public.

He joins Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in declaring it was not the government that presented the furlough program in the certified fiscal plan, despite fiscal board Chairman José Carrión’s claims.

“The chairman of the fiscal oversight board has alleged there was an agreement with the Government of Puerto Rico to include the reduction of work hours in the Fiscal Plan. As indicated by the governor, at no time was there an agreement with me to that effect,” Sánchez said in a statement issued by the La Fortaleza Communications Office.

The former government representative to the board, who also served as Rosselló’s gubernatorial campaign director said there is no evidence of an agreement to reduce working hours in the public sector.

“No document exists where I agree to include this unnecessary measure that the board now wants to impose. I urge the Chairman of the Board that if there is a document in which I accept the inclusion of a reduction of working hours that he make it public,” he added.

Elías Sánchez, right, speaks with fiscal board Chairman José Carrión during the panel’s eighth public meeting. (Juan J. Rodríguez / CB)

The governor said Thursday that his administration did not negotiate to include the workday cuts in the fiscal plan and claimed that the measure was recommended “unilaterally” by the board.

In addition, he hinted that a “conversation with third parties” may have occurred to that effect, but insisted it would have been with people without the power to negotiate on behalf of the government.

“This is very simple. The government negotiation with the Fiscal Oversight Board had to be done with the principals, that is, the governor of Puerto Rico, the representative before the board back then, Elías Sánchez, and Gerardo Portela, who is the director of Fafaa [Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority]. There was no agreement,” the governor said.

However, the chairman, who was on a media tour Thursday, argued that the entity created by  federal law “negotiated” with the government to include the measure, which the board considers a “mandatory” part of the fiscal plan. Therefore, it sued the government in federal court to enforce the workday cuts as well as 10 percent cut to public pensions.

“If we had not considered [the workday cuts] an integral element of the fiscal plan, we would not have certified it,” Carrión said in a NotiUno radio interview.

In another radio interview, on WKAQ, Carrión said he didn’t remember if the negotiation to implement the cuts happened with Sánchez or his assistant. He stressed, however, that the government made the proposal.

The case is before Judge Judith Dein, who the legal action filed in federal court was referred to by the board.

Although it has insisted it will not implement the measure that was expected to be in force from Friday, Sept. 1, through June 2018 or until $218 million in savings were achieved, the government has yet to respond to the lawsuit.

The measure would affect nearly 130,000 public employees of the executive branch, including public corporations, exempting the police force.

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