Puerto Rico Senate amends Single Employer Act
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Senate approved Monday a package of amendments to the Human Resources Administration and Transformation Act, which establishes the concept of government as a single employer, to clarify its language and exclude the Office of the Comptroller, the Panel of the Independent Special Prosecutor’s Office and the community corporations of Caño Martín Peña and the Canteras Peninsula.
Senate Bill 362 (S.B. 362) also “clarifies” that public employees who are transferred to a public-private partnership (P3) “will become employees” of that company “in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.” It also puts emphasis on avoiding that employee mobility results in constructive dismissals and requires the submission of two annual reports that account for the implementation of the law.
“What was done was that the right to have a different agreement on the part of the same employee or on the part of the union [when an APP is mobilized] was recognized … If what is agreed to isn’t complied with then, yes, the P3 is legally responsible for any relevant purpose, which is to guarantee the salary, fringe benefits,” explained the author of the measure, Sen. Miguel Romero.
During the brief debate, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Minority Whip Eduardo Bhatia questioned the underlying intentions to clarify the bill’s language, asking what would happen to public employee benefits, such as their retirement plans or pay scales, when transferred to a P3.
To this, Romero insisted that “transferred employees will retain their wages, fringe benefits… with the P3 responsible for taking on the corresponding transactions.”
“I am not convinced. I don’t understand how an employee can move to the private sector and have the same work expectations they have with the government… I have serious doubts about this bill,” Bhatia responded.
During the debate, independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot presented an amendment to include language to prevent public workers from losing healthcare coverage, and to ensure that retirement contributions are honored, but it was defeated.
This is the first series of amendments to be approved for the single employer law enacted in February. The government has not yet introduced regulations on the transfer of public employees and is still in talks with central government unions to determine what will happen to their members.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.