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Private sector unions reject Puerto Rico governor’s labor reform

By on March 22, 2018

SAN JUAN – Seven workers’ unions joined the growing wave of rejection of the new labor reform proposed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, which now seeks to disrupt private sector worker benefits, including the reduction of vacation and sick leave.

Advocates of private sector workers called the governor “hypocritical” for trying to reduce labor rights once again while his administration continues to pay high salaries, such as to new executive director and CEO of the Electric Power Authority (Prepa), Walter Higgins, who will make $450,000 a year.

“[The governor] knows very well that raising the minimum wage in a pyrrhic way is no help to the majority of the working class because only a very low percentage is impacted. In addition, that increase is [inconsequential] compared to the benefits they intend to remove,” said the president of the Teamsters Union, Argenis Carrillo, regarding the minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.25 that Rosselló expects within the next few years.

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In the same line, the secretary-treasurer of the Central Workers Federation (FCT), Juan Cortés Valle, said it was “immoral” to demand more sacrifices from Puerto Rican workers when central government waste continues.

“The crisis is only [felt by] working families, and the rest [live] the life of the first-world rich. Enough is enough, we are drawing the line here,” Cortés Valle declared while referring to the $625,000 salary paid to the executive director of the island’s fiscal oversight board, Natalie Jaresko.

To fight the administration’s proposals, the private sector unions announced that they will present next week a plan of action with other island sectors, to join in demanding policy changes.

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“Promoting new labor legislation that further suffocates working families is synonymous with further aggravating the economy, because to the extent that benefits are taken from workers, their mobility for spending and consumption is reduced. This is an exponential domino effect that also impacts the government’s finances,” Carrillo said.

Similar to the position of the Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) earlier, Cortés Valle argued that fewer labor rights will result in an “active and intentional” increase to the island’s already alarming wave of outmigration.

“It seems the governor likes to play Russian roulette; except that here he is aiming at the people,” Carrillo added.

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