Puerto Rico town lays off nearly 200 workers
SAN JUAN — In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the closure of a Pepsi plant in Cidra, Mayor Javier Carrasquillo asked the municipality’s agency directors Thursday to implement saving measures that include laying off nearly 200 people—the most people dismissed in more than a decade on the island.
The mayor explained that PepsiCo represented some $7.5 million in annual revenue for Cidra, or 40 percent of the small mountain town’s budget. As a result of the company’s closure, its budget will shrink from $18.6 million to $11.1 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
“Given this situation, we must produce $7.5 million in economies for the Fiscal Year 2018-2019,” Carrasquillo said. “The town of Cidra will implement four measures to ensure the municipality’s functioning and the provision of essential services to the people.”
Among the measures is to reduce contracts by 25 percent and budget spending items by 15 percent. In addition, the town will cut political appointee salaries by 10 percent, including the mayor’s salary; and will activate the Severance Plan, Ordinance 13, Series 2017-2018, approved March 21.
“We must consider that the budget will be reduced to only $11.1 million when the current payroll of the municipality is $10.5 million. With what, then, do we pay the obligations of law, which add up to $5.2 million? It is impossible! There is no other alternative,” the mayor said.
Carrasquillo also assured that Cidra considered reducing work hours to avoid the layoffs, but that the needed result would have required reducing the workday to all employees to only three hours a day, which would make it impossible to provide necessary services.
He said that according to the ordinance, layoffs will be decreed within the same groups of employees whose positions have the same classification title, considering the status of employees, their productivity as reflected by periodic evaluations, punctuality, attendance and seniority.
“Career employees must be notified in writing of the procedures for decreeing dismissals and notified of their right to appeal,” the Ordinance reads.
No layoff will be effective unless notified 30 days prior to the date of its effect, the order establishes.
“The dismissal of employees is one of the measures that the Municipality of Cidra should consider in response to the huge loss of economic resources that it will experience during the next Fiscal Year 2018-2019,” the document indicates.
Carrasquillo added that the past five years have been challenging for the town.
“We began the current Fiscal Year 2017-2018 confident in continuing work and to begin new programmed projects. But the passage of Hurricane Maria changed the course of Cidra and Puerto Rico. The interruption of commercial economic activity, the elimination of the IVU [sales & use tax], the impossibility that the situation has created for citizens to comply with their tax obligation have directly impacted municipal revenue,” the mayor lamented.