• The San Juan Daily Star

Teachers Assn. warns: POA will hit teachers hardest

Puerto Rico Teachers Association President Víctor Bonilla Sánchez

By John McPhaul

The Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) and its local union warned on Thursday that if the eighth plan of adjustment (POA) is approved, active teachers in the island Department of Education will receive the worst treatment because it contemplates the freezing of their retirement system.

For that reason they announced a series of actions with the purpose of exhausting all possible remedies within the bankruptcy process, while calling on the AMPR membership to unite to express outrage and point out those responsible for the debacle. They have adopted the slogan: “Attacks on My Retirement, Without Thinking About Education.”

“Contrary to the promises of politicians and the falsehoods promoted by other groups, active teachers were left without any protection against their retirement freeze,” AMPR President Víctor Bonilla Sánchez said at a press conference. “The Dignified Retirement Act was struck down by the court and the Law to End Bankruptcy did not include clear language to avoid the freeze. The teachers rejected the AMPR Alternative Proposal, relying on the expectation that they would be protected in another way. Unfortunately, time proved us right.”

The AMPR announced that it will continue to fight in defense of the teaching profession. After the vote for the Alternative Proposal, the teachers’ organization lobbied intensely to prevent the approval of the Law to End Bankruptcy. Also, it filed before the bankruptcy court its opposition to the approval of the POA and has requested participation in the forum called by U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain to listen to the people regarding the POA.

“The teachers must hold accountable those who dedicated themselves to misinforming them and lying to them,” said Sybaris Morales Paniagua, the interim general secretary of the AMPR-Local Labor Union. “These groups and some members of the country’s political leadership misled the teachers with false promises. Under this deception, the teachers left on the table $1.2 billion in benefits that had been negotiated with the [Financial Oversight and Management] Board. We will continue to pressure the country’s political leadership to return to the teachers their retirement and the $1.2 billion in benefits that the teachers left on the table, trusting in their promises.”

The AMPR president added that “we will exhaust all the necessary resources in favor of the retirement of active teachers, but the reality is that the situation before Judge Swain looks complicated.”

“We urge the membership to speak out about the adjustment plan before Judge Swain next week at the confirmation hearings,” Bonilla Sánchez said. “They have until 5 p.m. tomorrow [Friday] to register virtually. The same court will select the participants at random.”

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