Labor Dept. employees: 40 cents per mile doesn’t cover gas costs
By The Star Staff
A group of Department of Labor and Human Resources data collectors said over the weekend that the 40 cents per mile they receive is not enough to cover fuel expenses, not to mention the maintenance costs of their vehicles, which are required to do their work.
Hiram Alejandro Rosario said Statistics Office personnel are responsible for visiting establishments to determine the introductory prices of food and services, and gather data for studies on employment and unemployment, and studies of salaries paid by companies. The data is essential when the government prepares proposals and economic analyses for the establishment of new businesses on the island and is also required by the federal Department of Labor.
“Forty cents per mile is not enough to cover all the expenses of gasoline, maintenance, oil changes, tires, and much more that a vehicle needs to be kept in optimal condition, especially when your car is your main work tool,” Rosario said. “We are currently spending close to $100 a week on gasoline, an amount well above the reimbursement they give us.”
Likewise, Víctor Rivera noted that the agency takes up to two months to reimburse the employees, who earn a base salary of $1,600 per month, for the miles driven.
“Our salary is a pittance, and we have to wait up to two months for the reimbursement, leaving us with about $400 a month to cover all our needs, including rent, food, water and electricity, among others,” he said. “Technically we are paying the department for working for them. This is unfair and unacceptable.”
General Workers Union (UGT) President Gerson Guzmán López said the 60 or so data collectors who work at the Department of Labor have routes from San Juan to Fajardo and from Mayagüez to Yauco.
“The daily routes will depend on the establishments to be visited, but many of them are long distances between municipalities,” he said. “The Google measurement method used by the agency calculates the distances from place to place without considering traffic intensity and alternate routes to those calculated by the system. The cost of tolls incurred by employees is also not considered in the reimbursement per mile.”
Guzmán López said that in addition to the insufficient payment per mile traveled, people have not had their work equipment (computers, chargers, batteries) updated since 2006.
“These workers use a computer that has been in use for more than 15 years,” he said. “We know that technology is advancing, and this equipment could be considered obsolete. The data collected and processed daily requires state-of-the-art equipment with the latest technology, as this data is of the utmost importance for the agency and the country.”