Teachers demand to be excluded from bill that would reduce benefits to the public sector
SAN JUAN — After receiving a copy of the bills presented to support the government’s fiscal plan, the Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish acronym) requested a meeting with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to discuss the possible exclusion of educators in House Bill 938.
The proposal to create the “Fiscal Plan Compliance Act” seeks, among other things, to level conditions between public employees and the private sector. This includes reducing the vacation period to 15 days and to limit the Christmas bonus to $600.
AMPR President Aida Díaz said that educators would take the hardest blow, “due to the way their work schedule is structured. The bill proposes to leave educators without pay for three biweekly payments on summer, because it will only acknowledge 15 vacation days. This is inconceivable and unacceptable, and it will evoke chaos in the public education system.”
The letter, dated April 20, states that the AMPR didn’t receive an invitation to attend the joint public hearing between the House and Senate, in which they discussed the bill, which is why the association decided to contact the governor directly. Unions and their representatives, who will also be affected by the bill, were not invited to the hearing either.
“Did you know that this bill will imply a 10% reduction in the already meager wage for teachers?,” the letter reads. Along that same line, the group petitioned Rosselló to consider that, while other public agencies are operative throughout the entire year, the Education Department adheres to its school calendar.
Moreover, the organization warned that the bill will only contribute to the exodus of teachers and professionals who leave to seek better job opportunities in the United Stated. As an example, the letter provides data from the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute (SI) that informs that more than 3,000 local teachers emigrated in 2015.
“This bill will cause thousands more to flee the island, worsening the island’s monetary collection and leaving thousands of children without the base for learning,” the letter warns, estimating that the amount of teachers who emigrated two years ago could have doubled by now.
The Legislative Assembly hasn’t considered to conduct other public hearings on the bill, presented by the Executive, because they must approve it this week. The Fiscal Oversight & Management Board imposed by the federal Promesa law established that the administration must present its budget for Fiscal Year 2018 by April 30, which is why the Legislature must have approved the bill before that date.
Apart from reducing the vacation period, H.B. 938 seeks to affect teachers’ health care contribution.
“Public education, labor done solely by teachers, strengthened, is a valuable tool that contributes to our people’s recovery and economic development. We will stand by it,” the letter adds.