Wednesday, August 17, 2022

House to Approve Rosselló’s Labor Reform

By on January 14, 2017

SAN JUAN — The New Progressive Party (NPP) House delegation is keen to approve Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s labor reform (H.B. 453) during Saturday’s session, although the bill only saw one public hearing without participation from the island’s labor union section.

Likewise, during this session, which begins at 10:00 a.m., the legislative organism will address House Bill 451 which, among other things, extends the duration of the Fiscal Sustainability Act (No. 66-2014), freezes the University of Puerto Rico’s budget, and limits negotiations for the collective agreements’ economic provisions.

Members of the Campsite Against the Board mobilized to the Capitol to protest against the labor reform, which they claim is unfavorable for youth. (Cindy Burgos/CB)

Members of the Campsite Against the Board mobilized to the Capitol to protest against the labor reform, which they claim is unfavorable for youth. (Cindy Burgos/CB)

The third bill to be evaluated, as confirmed to Caribbean Business by NPP House Majority Leader Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló, will be Senate Bill 211, which grants higher powers to the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency & Financial Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish initials) to guarantee that public entities comply with the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Stability Act (Promesa). This bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Rodríguez Aguiló told Caribbean Business that the NPP delegation has enough votes to approve the three measures, which are part of a package of bills aimed at sustaining the economic and fiscal plan that Rosselló wants to present the Fiscal Oversight & Management Board imposed by Promesa.

The majority leader however, said he didn’t know if they addressed the claims of the island’s union sector, which opposed the labor reform because it eliminates certain workers’ rights, such as reducing the Christmas bonus, decreasing the accumulation of days due to illness and vacations, and reducing time to claim compensation for a layoff.

What the NPP did agree upon was amending part of that reform, which will be known as the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act. Among the measures to be launched are included: modifying the language related to coordination between the worker and the employer regarding their participation in religious activities; extending the probation term for new employees to last 12 months —it currently lasts three months, but the bill requested for it to be 18; and, soliciting quarterly reports from the Labor Department to indicate whether the bill has led to the creation of new jobs.

The other two measures will also be amended, but these were presented in executive hearings because “they are technical bills and are dealt with the Executive. Minority participation has been present in both cases.”

As to the possibility of protests against the labor reform, Rodríguez Aguiló maintained that “[people] have total right to do so. The Constitution protects them.” He added that at the time there aren’t instructions to limit access to those who wish to witness the sessions in the hemicycle premises.

 

PDP Claims There is “Parliamentary Obscurantism”

Upon the speediness with which the approval processes have been carried out during the new Legislative Assembly’s first week in office, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) House Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández told Caribbean Business that “we are faced with parliamentary obscurantism.”

With these expressions, the representative criticized that on two occasions they left House ruling without effect —for a total of five days— to convene without 24-hour prior notice of public and executive hearings, allowing no time to analyze the bills. Legislators don’t have knowledge of the measures that will be discussed during the session, which is why it is easier for them [the majority] to prepare for the debate in the hemicycle, he affirmed.

“We are faced with a new way to make government… This is a completely undemocratic strategy against all transparency measures. Parliamentary process is to disagree, to debate,” stated Hernández.

Although H.B. 451 extends Act 66, which was approved by the past administration, the PDP delegation will vote against it. The party also opposes the labor reform, for which they will present amendments.

Meanwhile, H.B. 211 will be evaluated Saturday morning. “If it doesn’t have any adverse challenge, we could evaluate whether to support it,” said Hernández.

 

Reform Unfavorable for Youth

Since the labor reform was expected to be evaluated during Friday’s session, members of the Campsite Against the Board, who had been installed in front of the U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico, transferred to the Capitol and manifested their opposition to the bill, under the belief that it won’t create jobs and would rather increase earnings for bigger interests.

“They are dismantling the labor force,” said José Rosario, one of the group’s spokespersons, who suggested that the NPP is applying a type of shock doctrine on the island.

For his part, Edwin Ocasio, spokesman of the ‘No a la Reforma Laboral’ (No to the Labor Reform) Facebook page, told this press that they oppose the measure because it significantly affects Puerto Rico’s youth, since it deals with potential changes to labor laws.

“We regret that Governor Ricardo Rosselló doesn’t know what it means to work in a private company, in jobs that pay the federal minimum, nor the importance of the rights of those of us who go to work without resting, drained, with the dream to boost Puerto Rico forward, plus with the uncertainty of watching our country falling. It is important for us, for the country to read and become educated about this terrible labor reform and to make our presence felt,” maintained Ocasio in written declarations.

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