• The San Juan Daily Star

Senate president returns minimum wage bill to conference committee

By John McPhaul

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago announced earlier this week that the approved conference committee report on House Bill 338 on the minimum wage was returned to the committee for reevaluation.

“Before making a motion, I would like to explain to my colleagues: This bill has [involved] working with a lot of consensus, with a lot of openness on all sides in order to raise the minimum wage,” Dalmau Santiago said Monday during his speech in the plenary session of the upper chamber. “First, we had consensus that raising the minimum wage is meritorious and that it should be legislated in this session. Second, there is a consensus that the reality of the amount of increase and the effective dates of the same must respond to the reality of the labor market and the economic situation of the country. And with all that in mind, all parties have expressed that the phased-in increase model is the most responsible and the ideal way to achieve, for employers and the government, the objectives of the legislation and the tools necessary to assimilate it, maintaining a climate of economic stability.”

“Third, all parties also agree that the prospective increases process must initially fall on a specialized agency, call it the Minimum Wage Increase Board or Committee,” the Senate president continued. “To this end, the Legislative Assembly, at a given time, agrees with the executive to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 on a certain date, subsequently to $9 to include additional increases on subsequent dates using the recommendations of a board that evaluates the impacts that those increases can have.”

“Despite the fact that the parliamentary majority worked on this in June and waited patiently for partial or final recommendations, it was not until the conference committee reports were approved that the governor and La Fortaleza sent a report, their own recommendations and another bill,” Dalmau Santiago said. “In order to keep the doors open and to achieve an opening so that everyone can agree that this increase is important and that it is necessary, additional agreements have been reached requesting that the conference report be returned to the committee for the purpose of adjusting the agreements in all the parts, … [the] House, Senate and the governor’s task force, and a conference committee can be affirmed where we all conciliate. So I ask my colleagues to return the report to the commission so that the agreements reached today are addressed,” he concluded.

Gov. Pedro Rafael Pierluisi Urrutia had stated earlier that, despite the fact that consensus exists on the first increase to the minimum wage for January, consensus must also exist for future increases and insisted that the bill authored by Rep. Héctor Ferrer Santiago be amended to that end.

“This shouldn’t be done in a crazy way,” the governor said at a press conference on Monday. “This must be a very prudent, very reasonable exercise. We all want an increase, but at the same time we do not want to harm the economy, we do not want job losses, so we are going to act with great prudence and reasonableness and without much fanfare.”

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