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Union Leaders Say 2015 Was Difficult for Puerto Rico, Fear Cuts to Services Next Year

By on December 29, 2015

SAN JUAN – Three union leaders said 2015 has been “very difficult for Puerto Rico,” while saying the biggest challenge workers face next year will be service cuts.

The president of the Central Puertorriqueña de Trabajadores union (CPT), Pedro Irene Maymí; the president of the Educamos teachers’ union, Eva Ayala; and the president of the Puerto Rican Workers Union (SPT by its Spanish acronym), Roberto Pagán, expressed in separate interviews with Inter News Service that it was a difficult year not only for the labor movement, but also for Puerto Rico and its workers.

Irene Maymí said that, in 2015, “the ‘crudita’ [petroleum-products tax] was approved; Act 66 [for Fiscal Sustainability] was continued; and a fiscal board was approved that although watered-down is no less worrisome. So it was a difficult year for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Ayala stressed that “it has been a very difficult year for the working class. Measures have been taken that affect basic services: health, safety and education,” adding that “collective bargaining agreements were not respected, so much so that we had to resort to acts of civil disobedience for part of the [year-end] bonus to be honored.”

“It’s a totally bleak picture. We have suffered a lot because of the government, and it hasn’t really wanted to respect the solutions we have proposed through our struggles,” said the unionized teachers’ leader, adding it was a year of intensified union action and urged these to continue united to achieve their goals.

For his part, Pagán said 2015 “was a very difficult year, and I think we can say there is a certain degree of disappointment seeing that Puerto Rico has plunged into a deep crisis and no space for solutions has been given.

“[Puerto Rico] is not prepared for what happens next year regarding debt payments,” the SPT’s president added.

The three labor leaders foresee the intensification of their fight next year against a reduction of services

Irene Maymí said that for the upcoming year, “the largest challenge, and the government has already announced it with the fiscal plan, is its pretending that workers pay, and when I speak of the workers, I am  speaking of public and private sector workers.”

“The challenge is to prevent any further dismantling of public services. Behind this, there has been an agenda to dismantle public services, perhaps with the goal of privatization, but what we’ve had is more expensive and fewer services,” he said, noting that in general what must be “avoided is any further dismantling [of services] and the imposition of more taxes.”

Educamos’ president stated: “We know this is part of the dynamics of the political parties that have governed poorly; they use subterfuge against the workers.”

She argued that for 2016, “they want to increase the cost of energy and water, eliminate government offices, privatize education, and finally, in what has been a very strong movement, the pursuit of dismantling the retirement systems will intensify.

“We anticipate that during this new year there will be many acts of civil disobedience. We will continue fighting, and in the case of [the Education Department], we will not allow services to be privatized,” Ayala predicted.

By Inter News Service

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