Gov reiterates Puerto Rico public workers must negotiate lower health plan premiums
NARANJITO, Puerto Rico – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares insisted that the groups that represent public employees should join to collectively negotiate the premiums of medical plans to mitigate the impact of the government’s reduced contribution.
“No, I do not see it that way and I’m going to explain why. On January 16, 2017, I received a letter from the administration of the fiscal control board. What they requested at that time, so that you have it in perspective, was a reduction or elimination of 50,000 jobs in the public sector and the elimination of access to health for between 600,000 and 700,000 people. Those were the objectives to achieve some savings. We chose to go other routes…that could mitigate the impacts and that, structured correctly, our society and the public sector could benefit, or benefit even more,” the governor said.
“The contribution to health insurance is one of those considerations. There, we have substantial savings to the government and what we have done is that they can negotiate in a group so they can negotiate more broadly. By negotiating as a group, they can lower those premiums. And although yes, there was one reduction, what’s certain is if you negotiate in a group, you can mitigate the impact of those premiums. I believe I have been reasonable in this and that’s why I asked for the extension,” he added.
Public sector union workers marched from the Department of Labor headquarters in San Juan to the fiscal board’s offices to demand that employers continue contributing to the more than 105,000 public employees’ health insurance.
“Today we went out to defend the health of the more than 350,000 Puerto Ricans who would be affected were the employer contribution to the medical plan reduced as proposed by the fiscal control board. We showed once again today that when we unite, great things happen, that we fight until we win and that we defend our family above all and everyone,” Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, representing the unions affiliated to the Trade Union Coordinator, said in a statement.
The demonstration began at 10 a.m. in front of the Labor Department, where union leaders delivered speeches declaring that health is a universal right and that they will defend it from board proposals and the Rosselló administration.
“They have already taken vacation and sick-leave days from us and now the fiscal control board wants to reduce salaries by reducing the employers’ contribution to medical plans. Taking the medical plan from us is an attack on the right of our families to receive the health services they need. That is why we must continue mobilizing and put pressure to stop those plans that could cause so much damage,” said Israel Marrero, first vice president of the Puerto Rican Workers Union (SPT).
For his part, Juan Cortés Valle, representative of the unions ascribed to the Puerto Rico Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, said, “Today’s demonstration delivers a clear message to the government and the fiscal control board: We are united as a movement and we are not going to give up defending the right to healthcare of our families. It is unacceptable that it is intended to pay the bondholders at the expense of the health of workers who provide services to the people. Reducing the contribution to the medical plan is an immediate cut to the livelihood of 350,000 people, which will also aggravate the economy. The abuse and the attacks on the health of public servants have to stop here.”