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Gov’t still negotiating Single Employer Act with unions

By on April 4, 2017

SAN JUAN – Even though Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed the Human Resources Administration & Transformation Act almost two months ago, it is still unclear what exactly will happen to unions and the public workers they protect once employees are transferred between agencies.

Among the possible scenarios is that employees who request an agency transfer could remain affiliated to the union that currently covers them. They could also switch who represents them, but it would all depend on the agreement between unions and the government

SPU President Annette González, left, and Chief of Staff William Villafañe confirmed they are continuing dialogue to address public workers rights under the Single Employer Act. (Cindy Burgos/CB)

SPU President Annette González, left, and Chief of Staff William Villafañe confirmed they are continuing dialogue to address public workers’ rights under the Single Employer Act. (Cindy Burgos/CB)

“This is something we are discussing, because the units appropriated under Act 45 [which shields agency unions] and Act 130 [which addresses unions in public corporations]… Are things that we are discussing with the chief of staff [William Villafañe] to see how these appropriate units will be conceptualized and how unions won’t be affected, without affecting the employee,” said United Public Workers (SPU by its Spanish acronym) President Annette González.

Accompanied by the chief of staff, who participated in the second Legislative Conference organized by the SPU, González said if public workers are affected negatively by Act 8-2017, which transforms the government into a single employer by centralizing public agencies, “we will act immediately.”

“We want the employee to retain their active [union] representation. The matter is that we are looking for the legal resources to set it forth,” Villafañe added in a press conference after concluding the discussion with SPU union workers.

The official explained that “within the next days” the Human Resources Administration & Transformation Office (OATRH by its Spanish initials) will publish a regultion “that will counsel with specificity each one of the government’s agencies and our public workers on the steps they must take” to comply with the Single Employer Act.

“There already are memos,” he emphasized, “and everybody who in that sense is willing [to move to another agency], welcome. The opportunity to grow professionally is real.”

“We will always safeguard workers’ rights. If it weren’t voluntary, then we would immediately take action and we will seek dialogue with the government, to see how we can solve that situation,” González said.

For his part, Villafañe said the “areas needed” are being assessed to propose employee transfers to agencies that require them, a process that will initially begin voluntarily.

During the discussion, a union worker asked Villafañe if there would be funds to recruit correctional security guards, to which he replied thegovernment would ask who is interested in receiving training. The same would occur with agents applying for internal revenue, another area in “need.”

Villafañe warns employers who try to benefit from labor reform

The official told SPU affiliates that “no agreement will be revoked,” and left the door open to dialogue. He also explained that Act 8 seeks “greater uniformity in terms of benefits” for public workers, many of which he said “are sky-high.”

“The next three years will be three years of tightening. In this process, everything that represents more [benefits] will have to convince us [to grant it]… And we must convince the [Financial Oversight & Management] board why we should [grant them],” said Villafañe, adding that savings from the act will be produced by limiting outside hires not reducing workers’ benefits.

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