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P.R. Highway & Transportation Authority workers stay home to protest alleged lack of Covid-19 protections

By on May 12, 2020

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Call on agency to comply with virus testing and safety protocols agreed with union

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Highways & Transportation Authority (PRHTA) employees affiliated to the Solidarity Program – Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (ProSol Utier by its Spanish acronym) decided Tuesday to stay at home and refused to go to work until the agency complies with health and safety protocols to protect workers from Covid-19 infection, union officials said.

Ángel Pinto Rivera, president of the ProSol Utier chapter at PRHTA, said that after the union inspected various work sites, it found that most did not comply with protocols designed to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.

“Close to 18 [work] centers remain idle. In most of these, employees’ temperature was not taken before starting work; they were not provided with adequate safety equipment such as face masks, gloves, soap or hand sanitizer,” the union leader said in a statement, noting that only the materials testing laboratory in Bayamón complied with the protocol. “Social distancing measures were not taken, work areas were not disinfected, nor were personnel given guidance on protocols established by the agency and the commitments established previously by the union in a meeting held on May 8.”

Employees will not return to work at the San Juan, Manatí, Humacao, Mayagüez and Ponce regional offices until the agency makes the needed changes to comply with the health and safety protocols, Pinto said.

“We will not risk the lives of our workers for the cause of employer negligence and irresponsibility,” he said. “We demand that Covid-19 tests be administered, needed protection materials be supplied, spaces and work centers be sanitized, and [the agency] comply with Executive Order 2020-38.”

Executive Order 2020-38, issued on May 1, allows the limited reopening of certain businesses, including mortgage banking, construction and manufacturing, while extending the two-month curfew/lockdown for the rest until May 25.

Pinto said that several labor leaders have agreed that work cannot resume until tests are administered to personnel and they are supplied with the needed personal protection equipment. He said Puerto Rico Health Department Secretary Lorenzo González has urged workers to demand that their employers provide them with Covid-19 testing.

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