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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House speaker to propose amendment to restore right to negotiate salaries

House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez, center

By The Star Staff

House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez announced Sunday he will introduce legislation that would amend Act 9-2021, which is the Law to Guarantee Collective Negotiations, to restore workers’ right to negotiate salary increases.

For the past few weeks, teachers, firefighters and other public workers have been demanding salary hikes as many have gone years without a raise. Hernández Montañez said the amendment will allow negotiations in collective bargaining agreements.

“Now that the approval process for the debt adjustment plan has been completed, the government has no excuses not to start evaluating the availability of funds and resources to improve the salaries of public employees,” Hernández Montañez said at a press conference. “The economic crisis facing our public servants has become unsustainable. To the extent that the salary increase and fringe benefits continue to be delayed for our officials who provide essential services on the island, we will have fewer professionals in the country, and the flight of talent to other jurisdictions that offer more dignified, fair conditions will continue.”

The bill would order the Office of Human Resources Administration and Transformation of the Government of Puerto Rico to immediately publish the Uniform Compensation and Reclassification Plan for Public Employees of the Executive Branch. The amendments will allow for the negotiations that were put on pause for years by economic clauses in collective bargaining agreements.

Law 9-2021, known as the Law to Guarantee Collective Bargaining, recognized that for decades public employees have seen their fringe benefits diminish, including their days off with pay, while their salaries are frozen and inflation continues to increase.

In the same way, the speaker recognized that workers in Puerto Rico and in the public service in general have been required to bear the greatest weight of the austerity measures and fiscal rigor that Puerto Rico is going through.

Hernández Montañez noted that according to the current rule of law, on July 1, 2021, all public servants would have awakened without a collective agreement for the first time in 20 years. For this reason, the recently approved Law 9-2021 protected the rights of workers in Puerto Rico.

However, he said, given that the Debt Adjustment Plan has been finalized and it substantially reduces the central government debt owed to creditors by 80%, the central government will have greater economic resources to assert rights and to ensure salary justice for public officials.

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