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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Union seeks order for commonwealth to enforce collective bargaining agreements

By The Star Staff

As the Official Committee of Retirees (COR) reported on Wednesday that it was ceasing operations, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) asked the Title III court that worked on the commonwealth’s bankruptcy to require the government to honor collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) as part of the exit plan.

Since its creation in 2017 by the U.S. Trustee under the PROMESA Law and the Bankruptcy Code, the Official Committee of Retirees has represented some 167,000 pensioners of the Central Retirement System, Teachers and the Judiciary in the bankruptcy process of Puerto Rico. The COR, however, announced that it was ceasing operations because the order confirming the adjustment plan for the commonwealth “is final, firm and unappealable.”

AFSCME argued that employees were being actively harmed as the commonwealth, whose debt adjustment plan was confirmed in March 2022 to restructure some $33 billion in debt and $55 billion in pension liabilities, had failed to execute the CBAs for almost two years.

AFSCME was the only labor organization to support the plan. AFSCME’s early support served as a catalyst for settlements by other stakeholders.

“A critical underpinning of AFSCME’s rationale in being a Plan Support Party was that AFSCME would have five-year CBAs deemed fully-enforceable as of the Plan’s Effective Date,” the union said.

However, that has yet to happen. Employees, for instance, earned an upside bonus of about $11,000 in 2022. Because officials were not implementing the agreements, workers could not use that money for their defined contribution accounts, reducing their retirement savings, AFSCME argued.

AFSCME asked the court to enforce the plan and require that the CBAs be executed.

“AFSCME respectfully submits that judicial intervention is necessary to ensure that thousands of AFSCME-represented public employees continue to serve the commonwealth and its citizens with enforceable collectively bargained-for contract rights,” AFSCME said in a response supporting the consummation of the debt adjustment plan.

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