Teachers call pay hike authorized by fiscal board ‘a crumb’
By John McPhaul
Following the announcement by the Financial Oversight and Management Board that it will allow a conditional raise to be granted to teachers of $470 per month, Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Manuel Bonilla Sánchez said on Thursday that he feels disappointed and further that it constitutes a “crumb” compared to what active teachers will lose after the debt adjustment plan (PAD by its Spanish acronym) takes effect.
“We met with the Board and told them that, at a minimum, this increase should bring the base salary of teachers to $3,500 to, in some way, compensate for what our educators will lose with the freezing of their retirement benefits,” Bonilla Sánchez said in a written statement. “Today they surprise us with this proposed increase, which is very little and to top it off, it comes with conditions that seem absurd to us.”
The oversight board’s proposal includes an increase of $5,640 per year, which would raise the teacher’s base salary to $2,220 per month. In addition, the proposal divides the entry into force of the increase for teachers in two phases. The first phase would be granted in July and the second in January 2023, but conditional on collective compliance with 90 percent of digital attendance records for teachers and students.
“This condition, in the opinion of the AMPR and its Local Union, is unfair because the teachers have been giving the extra mile for more than 13 years, without raises and carrying out administrative tasks that do not correspond to them,” the AMPR president said. “The teaching profession deserves no less than $3,500 a month because everything goes up in the country, except for the salaries of our teachers.”
Bonilla Sánchez said the proposed increase is not even equal to the efforts being made in the Legislature to bring the base salary of teachers to $2,700. Meanwhile, he insisted that the oversight board and the island government must identify the funds needed to deliver true wage justice for educators.
“When the teachers rejected the Alternate Proposal that we presented to them, $1.2 billion was left on the negotiating table,” he said. “We demand that more funds be identified in order to be able to compensate the teachers as they deserve, since this will be the group of public workers that will be left in the worst shape when the PAD takes effect.”
“In addition, if they were able to identify the money for our fellow police officers, the fairest thing is that funds for teachers also be identified,” Bonilla Sánchez said.