• The San Juan Daily Star

Legal services lawyers reach agreement to end strike

Hadassa Santini Colberg, executive director of Legal Services of Puerto Rico

By John McPhaul

Legal Services of Puerto Rico (SLPR by its Spanish initials) and the Lawyers Union (UAASL) reached an agreement over the weekend that ends the indefinite strike declared by the union and whereby members will return to work at the island’s legal service centers today, said Hadassa Santini Colberg, the executive director of the non-profit organization.

The parties agreed to continue the negotiation of the collective agreement with the commitment of the UAASL to maintain labor peace for a term of six months. SLPR management proposed granting certain financial compensation to ensure the return to work and advance collective bargaining.

“We reached a labor peace agreement to continue the process of dialogue and negotiation,” Santini Colberg said in a written statement. “We have stipulated to establish a broader schedule of meetings to resume the negotiation of the rest of the articles of the agreement and the payment of certain benefits that were subject to the validity of the expired collective agreement. In exchange for this, there will be no individual or collective participation in events that lead to the stoppage of work and an agreement was reached on several articles of the agreement.”

The parties will continue to have the support of mediators from the Department of Labor and Human Resources during the negotiation. Meetings will resume as soon as this week.

With the stipulation reached, nine articles of the collective agreement were signed as proposed by management. Some 16 articles are left to conclude the negotiation.

“In the coming days, we will return to the negotiating table with the same good faith and will continue to present proposals that bring us closer to the successful conclusion of the negotiation,” Santini Colberg said. “Our objective continues to be to offer benefits to our employees, maintaining a sustainable agreement that allows the good use of resources to provide the agile service that we want.”

So that the advice and legal representation services that SLPR provides to the low-income community would not be hindered during the strike period, SLPR management established a plan to process citizens’ emergency requests with the management personnel that remained working. In addition, the plan included deferring service by referring cases to similar organizations and lawyers participating in the program.

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