Manufacturers Assn. blasts LUMA union requirement it says impedes recovery of energy grid
By The Star Staff
The Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) charged on Wednesday that LUMA Energy is asking contractors and suppliers to sign a document requiring their employees to join a labor union if they want to work on the energization of the island.
LUMA Energy, the private operator of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) transmission and distribution system, has been criticized for its failure to prevent an islandwide blackout that resulted from the passage of Hurricane Fiona on Sept. 18.
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce required LUMA to provide by next Tuesday information on how it is allocating its contract money and to explain why it did not prepare the energy infrastructure to withstand a Category 1 hurricane.
PRMA Executive Director Yandia Pérez also called on the island government to create a citizen-based independent electricity system operator (ISO), similar to the ones existing in most U.S. states and other countries, to run the electrical dispatch controlled by LUMA for the sake of transparency.
Pérez made her call in a statement to LUMA Energy, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia. All of them are responsible for executing the immediate and long-term response to the emergency caused by the passage of Hurricane Fiona through the southwest of the island, she said.
“Our local companies, including contractors and electrical suppliers, have been ready to join the urgent energization work immediately,” Pérez said. “However, the imposition by LUMA for contractors and suppliers to sign a mandatory labor agreement known in English as the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) to carry out these projects constitutes an unacceptable impediment and a unilateral requirement.”
LUMA is forcing the companies to push their employees to join an international union so that LUMA can lawfully hire the companies.
“This inappropriate requirement hinders the humanitarian response of our associates and all local companies that wish to contribute with their experience, capacity, and knowledge, so contractors should be exempt from the PLA,” Pérez said. “LUMA has brought people from the United States and has not used these local companies.”
The PRMA executive said local contractors needed to be exempted from the PLA as it unreasonably harms and limits the free participation of local contractors and suppliers in rebuilding the electrical system.
“The Governor of Puerto Rico, as well as the other local and federal agencies in charge of the emergency response, in a gesture of solidarity with our local businesses and organizations, must support this request so that we have more resources in these restoration efforts, Pérez said.
She said it is up to the Puerto Rico government to implement the labor laws and public policies in force, both local and federal.
“It is not acceptable for a company, whose function comes from a contract with public agencies such as PREPA and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, to impose relevant employer working conditions upon a particular company,” she said.
The PRMA also denounced LUMA Energy for a severe lack of data and information that is accurate, credible, verifiable and timely.
“This consistent pattern of widespread misinformation needs to be addressed and resolved immediately,” Pérez said. “Complete and reliable information is the basis for legitimizing government actions in progress with transparency and with specific and clear responsibilities. It is unacceptable that companies, businesses, and consumers have to spend hours consulting various media outlets to try to obtain and manage what data is correct and what information is true about the electrical system and the energy crisis caused by a hurricane 17 days ago.”
The PRMA called for the immediate creation of a citizen-based ISO that can independently run the electrical dispatch.
“We should not wait another minute to create an ISO that produces data and accurate information and performs the electrical dispatch effectively, efficiently, reliably, and transparently,” Pérez said. “Likewise, we should not wait to immediately exempt local companies from the requirement of labor agreements to freely allow the maximum possible participation of companies in the assistance of restoration and energization work.”