• The San Juan Daily Star

Artists, labor unions call for mass protest today against HB 1003

Labor unions, artists and cultural groups have called on the public to join a protest today against the approval of legislation that would enable the debt adjustment plan to restructure some $35 billion in debt.

By The Star Staff

Labor unions, along with artists and cultural managers, called on the public to participate in a protest to be held today against the approval of House Bill (HB) 1003, which would enable the debt adjustment plan (PoA) that would restructure some $35 billion in debt.

The so-called “Jornada contra el Tumbe” will feature the participation of singer-songwriters, performers, and urban music including artists like Raquel González, Pepe Sánchez, Pateco, Moncho Saldaña, rapper Vladi, Palenke, Andy Kelemete and others. The action includes appeals, sending letters to legislators and a mass public demonstration in the square of the Capitol’s north wing starting at 10 a.m.

“Unlike what the governor and the legislative leadership affirm, that the [Financial Oversight and Management] Board’s debt adjustment plan is good business for Puerto Rico, the multisectoral group along with experts and independent analysts have charged that this board’s agreement with the bondholders will have the effect of causing the closure of municipalities and campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, and lead to privatization, more deterioration of essential public services and the imminent increase in taxes,” a statement from the group read.

HB 1003 would allow the commonwealth government to implement the proposed PoA by issuing new bonds. On Oct. 6, the island Senate passed an amended version of HB 1003, which prompted the oversight board to state on Oct. 8 that its costly provisions, which include a ban on pension benefit cuts, would make the debt deal unaffordable for the commonwealth. The House has postponed a final vote on the bill until the oversight concurs with the amendments made by the Senate.

The oversight had accepted a proposal made by commonwealth leaders under which pension cuts would start at $2,000 per month in the island’s PoA, instead of the current $1,500 threshold established in the debt plan. Meanwhile, the federal Title III court has nullified Act 7-2021, the Dignified Retirement Act, which banned public pension cuts.

While the Financial Oversight and Management Board said last week it will not pursue the 8.5% cut to pensions and accepted, for the most part, the conditions imposed by the Senate, the groups said the debt deal will considerably reduce the future pensions of teachers who are still working.

The deadline to reject the debt adjustment plan is today, Oct. 18.

The organizations that have called for the protest are the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors, National Student Confederation, Feminist Collective in Construction, Social Work Professionals Association, Consent, EDUCAMOS, Teachers Federation, Citizen Front for a Debt Audit, Pensions Defense Front, Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Employees, Artists’ Board, KmO, Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), PROSOL-UTIER, Continental Network for PEACE, and several others.

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