Pensioners say governor’s constitutional amendment proposal for retirement plans won’t solve anythin

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Pensions Defense Front spokesman Pedro Pastrana said Sunday that Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced’s proposal to put the retirement plans of public employees on a higher constitutional level is a hoax because it does not exempt pensions from being axed under bankruptcy and treats pensioners unfairly.

Pastrana and other members of the front called on Vázquez to comply with her commitment as announced in her budget speech on June 18, in which she supported House Bill (HB) 2434, the Law for a Dignified Retirement, and opposed cuts to active public employees’ and retirees’ pensions in the budget.

Pastrana deemed the governor’s proposal an electoral exercise.

“Once the Pensions Defense Front reviewed the proposal, we saw that it was a hoax because what they want to do is that they will put bondholders first, our pensions go next, and, later, essential services,” Pastrana told the Star. “We are telling people that if this amendment is approved, although this is going to happen prospectively in a few years, this means that after the government pays its debt to bondholders and, then, we [public employees and pensioners] might get paid with what the government has left.”

Pastrana said the proposal puts the pensions into an unfair competition as retirees have to wait for the government to comply with other debts before their needs.

“It puts us in unfair competition because we want to save our pensions,” he said. “As it says in the Law for a Dignified Retirement, which was made to comply with the Financial Oversight and Management Board’s requirements, which demands that the most vulnerable should be protected, the elderly are supposed to be protected; and also, there has to be economic development. If the money stays here and we keep our 64,000 retirees investing here, we will be able to get funds and pay for contractual obligations that the government needs.”

Meanwhile, Pastrana added that if there is to be an amendment to Puerto Rico’s Constitution, it should be “pensions and essential services come first,” although, he noted, it would not do much because the U.S. government could undercut that determination.

Pastrana also said retirees have sacrificed enough, so the government should do its part now.

“With special laws, the government took away our Christmas bonus, our contributions to our healthcare plan, and our summer bonus, which we made them save $10 million annually,” he said. “Going against our pensions is burdensome at this moment of our lives in order to pay for a debt that we had no involvement with.”

As The Star asked about their opinion on Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz not replying to how much the amendment might cost as it would be determined during the general elections on Nov. 3, Pastrana said that not putting HB 2434 in the Legislature’s special session and instead including a plebiscite is a waste of money, as the referendum might cost up to $5 million if it is approved.

“It’s incredible how they want to impose a referendum on a bankrupt country that will add $5 million more to the cost of general elections,” he said. “I can see now why we are under bankruptcy; our government doesn’t know how to manage budgets.”

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