Union emphatic on Puerto Rico energy policy bill amendment for workers
SAN JUAN – The president of the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym), which represents Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) workers, criticized Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer for saying the language proposed by the union in Senate Bill 1121 for energy public policy would not pass the island fiscal oversight board’s muster.
“Senator Seilhamer forgets that he represents the people of Puerto Rico and not the Fiscal Control Board or the privatizers; saying the amendment we proposed, which guarantees the rights of workers, would interfere with the Board, is saying he does not care about PREPA workers and legislates for big interests and bondholders.
“The President of the Senate has committed to, through a proposed amendment, guarantee the rights of workers and Senator Larry Seilhamer has expressed the same. So here is the golden opportunity to join the commitment of the President of the Senate,” Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo said.
The amendment guarantees the vested rights of Prepa workers after the utility’s privatization.
Seilhamer said Prepa workers’ rights would be met pursuant to the provisions of the single-employer program as the would remain employees of the government, but Figueroa Jaramillo said it would be a different scenario if Prepa is transferred or concessions are given to a private entity that would only provide workers a salary and minimum fringe benefits.
“Seilhamer says the benefits are guaranteed, but the only thing that guarantees the rights and benefits of workers is the collective agreement. If the bill is approved without adding this amendment and the [electric power] authority passes into private hands, there is no guarantee for the workers,” the union leader stressed.
Figueroa Jaramillo reiterated that Utier remains in favor of the public model for Prepa and that with the incorporation of the amendment, which has the endorsement and support of Senate President Tomás Rivera Schatz, what they seek is to protect the workers.
“We have always established that we remain in favor of the [electric power] Authority remaining in the public model and we do not endorse Bill 1121, but in the event of any eventuality we must be proactive and fulfill our duty as a union, which is to ensure the rights of all Prepa workers,” he said.
The union urged its membership and the public to show up at the Capitol on Tuesday at 4 p.m. to demand the Senate incorporate the amendments proposed by the union.