Union asks governor to appeal annulment of labor laws
By John McPhaul
In a letter sent to Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, Electrical and Irrigation Industry Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym) President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo asked the governor to express himself and appeal the decision of Judge Laura Taylor Swain that annulled a salary increase for Puerto Rico’s firefighters and the accrual of sick days and vacations for public employees.
“We have sent Gov. Pierluisi a letter asking him to express himself regarding the recent decision of Judge Laura Taylor Swain that annulled and rendered inoperative the laws that allowed the restitution of accrual of sick days and vacations of public employees, and the salary increase for firefighters, among other laws,” the union leader said Monday.
The letter sent by UTIER details the reasons why the island Legislature created the laws that allowed benefits to public employees and firefighters.
“We remind the governor of the reasons legislators [made] these laws and why it is important that they go into effect,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “In the case of the law to restore the accumulation of vacation and sick days, it was approved because the legislation approved in 2017 decreased the vacation and sick day benefit accumulation in a way that had a highly negative impact on public employees, particularly due to the vicissitudes that followed the passage of Hurricane Maria, and also there is no evidence that [the 2017 law] has prevented the crisis that the government created.”
The UTIER president added that in the case of the firefighters salary increase of $125 per month, or $1,500 per year, the Legislature said that law sought to answer a demand from 10 years ago for a salary adjustment for firefighters, whose work exposes them to risks of disease and accidents.
“This determination of the judge to repeal these laws is not final and firm, so the Pedro Pierluisi government still has the opportunity to appeal it,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “In addition, the judge left the door open to make changes that justify a modification to her decision, since she did not declare the laws invalid. That is why we tell the governor that it is up to him to make a determination on the course of action to take in this matter. Now is the time to show what he said in the campaign, that he knows the [oversight] board well.”
The union leader pointed out that Pierluisi “needs to express himself on this matter, which is so important for the government labor sector and, furthermore, to establish the legitimacy of the territorial government whose command he now holds.”
“The judge’s discussion addresses these issues as a matter of only dollars and cents without considering the long-term effects, the public policy of the Government of Puerto Rico, or the needs of public workers,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “By accepting this decision without further [petition], your government would be endorsing a vision of the Financial Oversight and Management Board that goes beyond budget oversight and becomes a non-elected supra-constitutional government that controls the vision and public policy of your government.”