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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

DNER union accuses agency of double-talk on pay hikes

United Public Servants of Puerto Rico Council 95 President Jessica Martínez

By The Star Staff

The Local 3647 of the United Public Servants of Puerto Rico (SPUPR by its Spanish initials) on Tuesday charged that the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) is engaging in “double-talk” in which they publicly support a salary hike for agency rangers while a human resources official says they don’t deserve more pay due to an alleged pattern of absenteeism.

“This is unprecedented; the pattern of intimidation and half-truths in this agency is serious,” SPUPR Council 95 President Jessica Martínez said in a written communication. “Now, the problem of not giving a raise to the rangers is [based on] alleged absenteeism raised by the former director of Human Resources. But, in yesterday’s hearing, the statements of the DNER Secretary prove us right.”

The real problem, Martínez said, is that there is an insufficient number of rangers, “and as a union we must point out that at least two academies of 250 rangers each must be held.”

“There is no pattern of absenteeism among the rangers,” she insisted. “This is a capricious accusation to continue oppressing the security personnel and not recognizing our collective agreements.”

Martínez said the union is tired of agency excuses to justify not resolving problems with personnel shortages and low salaries.

“The new excuse is the supposed problem of absenteeism,” she said. “We would like to remind the DNER that rangers have the right to use their sick leave and compensatory time as provided by the Law and the agreement between the Financial Oversight and Management Board and AFSCME. Before raising a problem of absenteeism, it should be verified whether the absences are justified or not. We must not forget that there is an overload of work on these personnel due to the lack of recruitment, and this generates serious health problems.”

The union leader emphasized that, unfortunately, the administration has not provided space for an effective dialogue between the union and the agency and that it is time for it to happen for the well-being of all parties. She stated that justifying the increase to the rangers should be based on the continuous work they do, on how they bite the bullet in the face of rampant personnel shortages, on working for years without salary increases, on the achievements of their units, and on how they have done great work despite not having the necessary equipment.

“As a Union, we have asked the Agency to [join in defending] the salary increases of the Rangers Corps so that they do not remain mere words and become actions that benefit and motivate the personnel who do the work,” Martínez said. “It is very unfair for us to see how practically all security employees have been given salary increases except the Rangers. Now we are seeing that the problem is how the agency does not understand the value and the work we do day by day for the well-being of our people.”

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