Wednesday, October 28, 2020

AMA Union Denounces multimillion-dollar debt to Retirement Systems

By on October 6, 2016

SAN JUAN— Labor leaders of several unions representing the workers of the Metropolitan Bus Authority (AMA by its Spanish acronym) announced Wednesday they are preparing to submit a legal motion in court to demand the payment of a $29-million debt that the agency has with the Administration Retirement system.

2-union-amaAs indicated, the debt prevents AMA workers from being eligible for retirement benefits.

“Alberto Figueroa Medina, the executive director of the Integrated Transport Authority (ATI by its Spanish acronym), has amassed a huge retirement system debt from little more than $2 million to $29 million in just two to three years, since he took the helm of AMA and ATI. As is clear from the debt that was certified August 18, 2016, Figueroa Medina has not sent a single penny to the retirement system of government employees. He has not given a single penny of employer contribution, which is what is required of him, or even 10% of the workers’ contribution. Therefore, he has committed an unlawful appropriation of funds that we, as employees, confided to him to remit to the retirement system and he did not. As a result, he has amassed a debt that, only from the individual contribution of employees, amounts to $1.5 million, “said Alexis Merced, president Tuama, a labor union of AMA workers.

“Out of the money paid by employees for disability insurance, not a single penny has been remitted; neither has any money from employee loans. There have been employees who have been almost arrested due to failure to pay child support under the Minors Sustenance Administration (Asume by its Spanish acronym), which is a responsibility that the authority assumed in remitting and did not do that either,” he added.

Spokesmen for the unions claimed that the money for the payment of the debt owed by AMA to the retirement system was available, because it came from the remittance that AAM receives through the tax on cigarette taxes, as stipulated in Law No. 30 of 2013. About $10 million of this tax was collected annually but the money was retained by order of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, the union leaders alleged, to pay off interests to creditors under the Moratorium Act. However, the workers allege that such a payment was never carried out.

Meanwhile, Merced said the money was diverted to the ATI for use in contracts which, he said, do not yield any social purpose, adding that currently ATI’s budget of $10.2 million is squandered in contracts benefitting “good friends” of the executive director.

The group also denounced an alleged phantom “clawback” (recovery of funds already disbursed) issued by Fortaleza to pay interest on the debt with creditors; however, they also indicated that this never happened.

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