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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

$8.50 per hour for all public employees can’t be guaranteed

The deputy director of the Office for the Administration and Transformation of Human Resources could not guarantee that $8.50 per hour would be the minimum salary for all employees.

By The Star Staff

The Labor Affairs Committee of the island House of Representatives held a public hearing Wednesday to address House Resolution 532, which seeks to investigate all matters related to working conditions, hours, wages and labor-management relations in Puerto Rico.

The measure authored by Committee Chairman Domingo Torres García also investigates worker training and retraining, labor services, and orientation.

“With this process, we seek to do justice to each public servant and to see to it that, starting next year, the salary adjustment that is so urgently needed will be provided,” Torres García said.

The measure was defended in a public hearing by the central government’s Office for the Administration and Transformation of Human Resources (OATRH by its Spanish initials) and the Public Service Appellate Commission (CASP by its Spanish acronym).

At the hearing, Torres García demanded that the minimum wage of each public employee be $8.50 per hour starting next year.

However, Gustavo Cartagena, deputy director of OATRH, could not guarantee that this would be the salary for all employees.

“Public employees will be at par with what the market dictates,” the official said. “At this moment, we are not guaranteeing the amount. We are guaranteeing that each government employee’s salary will be competitive in relation to the average salary in the market.”

Cartagena added that the OATRH has already developed the Uniform Remuneration Plan -- also for the career service -- to standardize the salary scales of public employees of those central government agencies covered by Law 8-2017.

Likewise, the agency representative said they are in the final analysis of the remuneration plan to be implemented in the public agencies covered by the Human Resources Administration System regarding career employees.

“It is projected that both the Classification Plan and the Uniform Compensation Plan for the career service will go into effect in January 2023,’’ Cartagena said.

Previously, the government agency developed a pilot project in which they were able to increase the allocation of the compensation plan per fiscal year from $83 million to $99 million.

The two public entities participating in the Administrative Reform Pilot Plan that began in April 2022 were the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Treasury Department.

In the process, OATRH evaluated 196 positions in which 156 employees received a salary increase.

Cartagena noted that the agency would determine the date on which agencies will be authorized to notify each employee in writing of the implementation of the classification and compensation plans, which is projected to occur in December.

Laudelino Mulero Clas, president of the CASP -- an agency that specializes in labor-management matters and which handles labor claims of public sector employees -- noted meanwhile that they only have a staff of 35 employees, of which only 18 handle 8,727 active cases.

Mulero Clas said the CASP budget is $2.5 million, and he requested more resources to hire personnel to speed up the processing of cases.

“To this end, conversations have been held with the fiscal control board and the OMB, who are aware of the situation, and we have no doubt that they will assist us in this process so that the claims can be handled on time,’’ Mulero Clas said.

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