University professors organization demands union recognition from UPR
By The Star Staff
The Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU by its Spanish initials) is demanding that the university administration accept the unionization of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) professors.
The APPU urged UPR administrators this week to accept a union election that allows professors to engage in collective bargaining.
“Our association collected endorsements demanding a union election on all UPR campuses; 67% of all teachers validated the effort and it is thus certified by the Labor Relations Board,” the APPU said. “We went through the same process as the Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Employees [HEEND], FLEURUM [Labor Federation of Mayagüez Campus University Employees] and UBOS [Authentic Union of Security Officers].”
“The university administration’s reaction in all these cases was to accept the union election and sit down to negotiate a collective agreement,” APPU President Ángel Rodríguez Rivera said. “However, in our case, for unknown reasons, [the administration] insists on denying us the possibility of democratically deciding if we want to negotiate collectively.”
According to the APPU, collective bargaining would make it possible to improve university instructors’ working conditions. A sector that, Rodríguez Rivera said, has been hit hard by the gradual but constant dismantling of the UPR.
“What has happened to the professors is disrespectful on the part of the university as an employer,” he said. “Our participation in committees is an exercise in futility, and an overload of work hampers our ability to produce knowledge. Our university does not provide teachers with the most basic working conditions. We don’t even have adequate offices to be able to serve our students.”
In the case of professors without tenure, the problem is magnified, the APPU president said. They have no job security, no fringe benefits such as a health plan, added to precarious wages, he said.
“At the University of Puerto Rico, an instructor without a tenured position who works part-time earns $594 a month if she has a master’s degree and $681 if she has a doctorate,” Rodríguez Rivera continued. “This is an injustice of major proportions, but it becomes even more incredible when we consider that non-teaching employees who are paid by the hour and work part-time are paid $737, at the rate of $8.50/hour. Paying $8.50 is outrageous. Paying less than that, with the requirement of higher academic degrees, is unheard of, disrespectful, and subjects part-time teaching to very poor conditions. That is why we demand better salaries from the University of Puerto Rico for part-time professors. That is why we demand collective bargaining. It is our instrument to force attention to those clear needs.”
Rodríguez Rivera called on the entire APPU enrollment to participate in its general assembly on Saturday, March 11, starting at 1 p.m. at the UPR’s Cayey Campus.
“Participation in our assembly is essential,” he said. “There we will establish the action plan to achieve our collective bargaining that allows us to put an end to the abuses against UPR professors. Management can only continue to worsen our working conditions if we let them. Our strength is in our militancy and the assembly is the first step.”