By The Star Staff
The Trade Union Solidarity Movement (MSS by its Spanish initials), a union representing private sector workers, chided Labor and Human Resources Secretary Gabriel Maldonado González on Tuesday for failing to supervise employers who do not pay Christmas bonuses.
The Department of Labor and Human Resources announced that 43,955 employees will not receive Christmas bonuses this year. The MSS said each year, the same names appear in the list of employers that do not pay bonuses.
“Year after year, we see in the list of employers who do not pay Christmas bonuses that several companies continually repeat this bad practice,” union representative José Rodríguez Vélez said. “Security guard companies, private schools, cleaning companies, hospitals, and the last straw are fast food restaurants, which do not pay a bonus. Still, from time to time, they open a new establishment.”
The union leader expressed surprise that fast food restaurants that pay a “pittance of $2.13 an hour and sell a bottle of water for $3.00 claim they can not pay the Christmas bonus, then they open more restaurants, and the secretary of Labor allows them not to pay the bonus.”
“It is an outrage on the part of both the employers and the government that allows it,” he said.
Rodríguez Vélez noted that private security companies and private schools have been appearing on the list for five years in a row.
“How can they not generate profits after not paying the bonus for so long?” he said. “Maybe they use creative accounting or ask not to pay the bonus, and the Department of Labor is not effective enough to investigate the finances of the private companies that do not pay the bonus.”
In the 2017 labor reform, an employee must work 1,350 hours to acquire the benefit of the Christmas bonus; before the reform, they had to work 700 hours.
“Then employers at all levels complain that people do not want to work, but they cannot provide a fair bonus, since with inflation, we know that $600 does not go far, and in the worst case, there are employers that don’t want to pay it,” Rodríguez Vélez said.
Rodríguez Vélez called on the labor chief to deny the requests of employers seeking to avoid paying the Christmas bonus when they have appeared on the list for two consecutive years. He also asked the agency to be more thorough in evaluating creative accounting requests and, finally, to require restaurants that pay $2.13 an hour but open new restaurants to pay the bonus.
The MSS represents hundreds of employees of private companies in Puerto Rico, mainly Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola and Partner Business Services.