Puerto Rico Legal Services lawyers go on strike
SAN JUAN – Members of the Union of Legal Services Lawyers (UASL by its Spanish initials) halted work Tuesday following what they said was “the refusal of the administration” to sign a “fair” collective bargaining agreement.
“On December 14, at our Annual Assembly, the holding of a strike on Tuesday, the 8th, when we restart our work after the Christmas period, was approved. The employer receives us with more intransigence by insisting on extending the agony of not having an agreement. Meanwhile, the legal advisers bleed the budget of the law firm of the poor,” said the lawyer Manuel López Gay, president of the UASL in a written statement.
The union’s members, about 75 lawyers, were demonstrating at noon Tuesday in front of the administrative offices at 526 Sagrado Corazón Avenue in Santurce. In the negotiation of the collective agreement, Puerto Rico Legal Services (SLPR by its Spanish initials) Administrator Hadassa Santini Colberg has hired a labor lawyer and a firm that represent her at the negotiation table and before the Labor Relations Board, respectively.
“The administration pays fees to those contracted by the firm of the poor, while it tries to strip the unionized lawyers of their rights, recognized by agreements for more than 25 years. It proposes to reduce their income while extending the workday,” López Gay said.
He said that, according to the SLPR’s books, the government corporation had paid $77,000 in legal expenses through August last year.
“The UASL proposed since the first day that the discussion began about the new collective agreement that expired in June, that a contract identical to the existing one that would be valid for the next three years be signed,” the labor group’s leader said.
Among other issues, López Gay denounced that the SLPR administration “[u]nilaterally, capriciously and without economic justification, has eliminated the bonus of $750 and has reduced to 5 percent the Christmas bonus, substantially decreasing our income; substitutes bonuses for ‘productivity bonuses’ that management in the future will determine the criteria for granting them; strips those unionized of all the rights negotiated in the collective agreement, including the reduction of holidays, sick leave and flexible hours: increase[s] the hiring salary, without doing justice to the lawyers who already work for Legal Services, and reduce[s] substantially the contribution to the medical plan.”
–Caribbean Business contributed to this report.