Puerto Rico teachers object to their retirement system’s reform
SAN JUAN – “My retirement isn’t sold; my retirement is defended.” With that chant, a group of teachers convened by the Broad Front in Defense of Public Education (Fadep by its Spanish acronym) demonstrated Monday in front of the Capitol’s northern wing against Teachers Retirement System (SRM for its Spanish initials) reform.
Reforming the SRM and the Puerto Rico Government Employees and Judiciary Retirement Systems Administration (ASR by its Spanish initials) is one of the five bills to be considered in the first special session, which begins Monday, of the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
Eva Ayala, spokeswoman of the teachers’ group Educamos, one of the groups under Fadep, explained to Caribbean Business that the SRM´s reform would end up “looting” the system and destroying lifelong pensions for active teachers in the Education Department.
Ayala also chastised Senate Resolution 188, which ordered the SRM and ASR to liquidate their assets to transfer the $390 million that these represent to the central government. The purpose of the bill is for the central government to take over public pension payments as of this year because otherwise the retirement systems would not have enough funds in the coming months to make them.
The reform makes payments from the central government possible through the pay-as-you-go, or PayGo scheme, whereby the payment is made depending on available funds. After the law’s enactment, public employees will have a type of 401(k), or individual retirement, account into which they may invest.
“In the case of us teachers who are already retired, it could turn out that what was contributed to the General Fund only lasts one year,” Educamos’ Ayala said. “We are worried about what the government and the fiscal control board itself recommended, to lower our pensions by 10 percent. There is much uncertainty. We want them to answer those questions: if it will be a hybrid system, if it is for life…?”
Ayala’s declaration took place minutes after House Speaker Carlos Méndez met Fadep members in his legislative office. Ayala was accompanied by Unete President Emilio Nieves and the president of the Teachers Federation, Mercedes Martínez. Both organizations fall under the Fadep umbrella and participated in the morning demonstration.
When entering the Capitol, all were registered on a list and searched. Capitol security did not allow access to the remaining protesters, citing “security measures.”
Méndez said access to the public will be allowed, but with security measures.
For her part, the president of the Teachers Federation questioned government’s figures with respect to the island’s retirement systems. Martínez believes the systems had more than $1 billion, and called the cited $390 million in liquid assets “questionable.”
The legislative presidents said no measures will be approved Monday, the first day of the special session.