Puerto Rico public employees to receive Christmas bonus earlier
SAN JUAN – Despite the difficult fiscal situation Puerto Rico is going through, in addition to the severe blows from hurricanes Irma and María on the island’s economy, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced that public employees will receive their statutory Christmas bonus shortly.
“Our public employees have done an admirable job for the recovery of the island. Without them, this work would be impossible and we must provide their Christmas bonus on time. These are difficult moments, but we have the commitment of our public service,” the governor said in a press release.
It is unclear if the announcement implies that the island’s fiscal control board has withdrawn its request that the bonus be eliminated, an issue left on the table Aug. 4 during the ninth public meeting of the panel created by the Promesa federal law. That day, the implementation of a two-workday-cut a month for public employees was announced and Sept. 30 was set as the day when a final determination on the bonus would be made.
It was precisely on Sept. 30 when Chairman José Carrión stated in writing that “the Board is postponing any discussion of furloughs until next fiscal year and it is withdrawing its related lawsuit,” after the the devastation wrought by Hurricane María.
The law requires the Christmas bonus to be paid by Dec. 20. However, the governor said “it is important we advance this well-deserved payment to help our public employees and foster the economy, which faces great challenges.”
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado said public workers will begin to receive the money owed to them from the Christmas bonus starting Nov. 24.
In the case of its payment to public corporation employees, the governor requested each entity evaluate its fiscal situation and make the disbursement as soon as possible.
As for private sector employees, Labor Secretary Carlos Saavedra informed on Nov. 3 that employers have until Thursday, Nov. 30, to request an exemption from payment of the bonus to their employees pursuant to Act 148 of 1969.
Saavedra explained that to qualify for the exemption, employers must have sustained financial losses or not obtained sufficient earnings from Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017. Another element that takes effect this year is the bonus can be credited to other compensations received by the employee, as long as they occurred before Oct. 1.
Last year, 944 private sector employers requested exemption from paying the Christmas bonus, or 20 fewer than in 2015, when the Labor Standards Division received 964 applications.