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Puerto Rico Unions Defend Collective Bargaining Agreement

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By Pablo Ros Workers' Rights State & Local Budgets
Puerto Rico Unions Defend Collective Bargaining Agreement

Puerto Rico’s Emergency Law, a proposal to address the Commonwealth’s fiscal crisis, would eliminate raises, economic benefits and extraordinary compensation to executive branch employees for the next three years. It would reduce Christmas bonuses to $600 and eliminate summer bonuses. And it would eliminate surplus vacation for all public employees.

Those are just some of the possible negative consequences of a law that goes into effect July 1st. But thanks to Servidores Públicos Unidos / AFSCME Council 95 and five other labor unions in Puerto Rico, public employees in the executive branch will likely be shielded from the worst of these attacks. Earlier this month, the unions and the island’s government reached an agreement that protects workers’ wages and benefits and, most importantly, preserves the integrity of the collective bargaining agreement.

The deal applies to unionized public employees in the executive branch, leaving some 10 percent of executive branch employees vulnerable to the effects of the Emergency Law.

“Public employees in Puerto Rico work hard every day for their families and their communities, and in times of need are more than willing to sacrifice for the collective wellbeing,” said SPU President Annette Gonzalez. “The deal reached with the executive branch is proof that solutions to our country’s fiscal crisis need not trample on public employees’ rights and that, by working together, we can find solutions to our country’s fiscal challenges without placing undue burden on working families.”

The deal provides for a delay in expected wage raises but preserves them. And it preserves other benefits such as the Christmas bonus and surplus vacation.

Public employees are currently voting on the tentative agreement and hope to finish voting by July 1st to ratify it. Puerto Rico’s Emergency Law is a response to the island’s dire fiscal situation, with the government facing a deficit of $75 billion.