Union groups protest fiscal board challenge to pension law

By John McPhaul


Union groups representing retirees gathered in front of the U.S. District Court on Chardón Avenue in Hato Rey on Tuesday to protest the lawsuit filed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board against the Dignified Retirement Act, which would protect retirees who receive pensions of over $1,500 from the board’s budget axe.

If an amended debt adjustment plan issued by the oversight board on Tuesday is approved, the union organizations said, thousands of retired people will be harmed by the cuts.

The trade unions, which have united in repudiation of the austerity measures being imposed by the oversight board, pointed to what they said are various conflicts of interest and business relations of the board as the reason why the debt agreement is being promoted against the wishes of the people.

“We are here to let the Board know that we will not put up with it anymore if they give away our pensions to millionaire bondholders,” said Sonia Palacios, spokeswoman for Build Another Agreement. “The Junta [oversight board] is the enemy of the people and we only have to look at its background to understand those they defend. The first example of this is Antonio Medina, who worked in pharmaceutical companies where they profited from million-dollar tax exemptions that led us to this bankruptcy. Justin Peterson, on the other hand, worked as a lobbyist for the vulture funds, looking for his bondholder friends to get richer. Others like David Skeel and Arthur González are Republican agents who have supported every austerity measure that has been put forward, no matter how much damage it does to us. The Junta is a disgrace for this country and we say a resounding NO.”

The Dignified Retirement Act is currently being challenged in federal court by the oversight board. Currently, the Dignified Retirement Act is the only mechanism preventing pension cuts. The island Legislative Assembly filed a motion to dismiss the board’s challenge, stressing that it would not be repealing the law.

“We urge pensioners and active public servants to vote against the Debt Adjustment Plan in the voting process,” said Pedro Pastrana, spokesman for the Retired Chapter of the Teachers’ Federation. “This is an abusive plan that has been created by a Board of people disconnected from the country. … How are we going to survive if we are not going to have anything to pay for medicines, food and utilities? Are we going to continue to place the economic burden of our island on the youth, who, to top it all off, earn a pittance? The cut in pensions is only going to end up plunging us all into poverty.”