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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Chamber seeks to enter into litigation to defend labor reform

From left, legislator Edgardo Feliciano Sánchez, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, and chairman of the Labor Affairs Committee, Domingo Torres García.

By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar

The House of Representatives decided to request to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) against the Government of Puerto Rico to challenge the validity of the Labor Reform -contemplated in Act 41 of 2022) to defend the validity of the statute.

According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, it is “suspicious” that they have been left out of the process since “the government has three branches and you can’t put one above the other,” noting that the original lawsuit only includes the Executive.

“We filed our response to the lawsuit (against the government), and we will continue. It is important to determine whether we are on the side of the Board or the side of the workers and we are on the side of the workers. We are doing it with actions, keeping our word,” said Hernandez, noting that if they are not allowed to enter the lawsuit as an interested party, they will request to do so as friends of the court (amicus curiae).

On September 1, the FOMB challenged the Labor Reform (Act 41 of 2022) in the Federal Court after saying that it “would not make any more warnings to the government” regarding its refusal to set aside the statute.

While the FOMB alleged that the government did not present data to justify the position that the labor reform will originate more jobs in Puerto Rico, Hernández said that “we amended the 2017 labor reform, which was framed in a completely different financial reality than today.... (the Board) has not been able to prove that this legislation affects the country’s economy or the fiscal plan. The more resources are in the hands of the citizens, the more consumption capacity increases, which has a positive impact on the country’s economy,” the Speaker said.

“The document that the Board has provided, a mere PowerPoint with some references to some notes, don’t have a projection of a professional’s negative or positive impact on our society,” insisted Hernandez. “We comply with the processes to defend the position; the Board does not see it as an affirmative position, but we want that from the Chamber we can present (our arguments) with projections, and we can maintain the right of our workers,” said the Chamber leader.

For his part, the chairman of the House Labor Affairs Committee, Domingo Torres Garcia, said that “the implementation of the Labor Reform has not yielded the results that the FOMB assured five years ago. The Reform, promoted by the New Progressive Party administration and the FOMB, was a failed experiment”.

Act 41 of 2022 restores certain labor rights eliminated in 2017, such as vacation and sick leave, the Christmas bonus, and the probationary period.

“We want to see the case on its merits,” Hernandez said. “The Board did not include us to be able to participate, and we, in the federal forum, have the credibility to make these approaches because we attended the necessary legislation to get out of the financial morass. Today is not 2017.”

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