UPR workers ‘up in arms’ at La Fortaleza, demand gov’t sign collective bargaining agreement

HEEND chairwoman: CBA could save $20 million annually

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

The Brotherhood of Non-Teaching Exempt Employees (HEEND by its Spanish acronym) set up a protest camp Wednesday in front of La Fortaleza to demand that the government stop the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) governing board from officially repealing the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

HEEND President Jannell Marina Santana Andino told the STAR that the brotherhood was “up in arms” in front of the executive mansion because UPR President Jorge Haddock “wants to take the agreement away from us.”

“Our claim is that the government, obviously, has to intervene in this matter,” the union leader said. “The government could claim university autonomy, but that concept is something utopian that does not exist, and we have a university that is very angry, both professors and students, and us.”

Santana Andino said the union has been negotiating the CBA since 2017. The repeal attempt comes as a result of recommendations from the federal Financial Management and Oversight Board, which has reduced the university’s budget by more than $300 million.

“The last attempt was negotiated with Haddock and his staff,” Santana Andino said. “Every time the agreement is close to being amended, a new obstacle lies ahead, there’s something new we must do, there’s a spelling mistake that needs to be proofread as the administration demands that we fix some periods and commas they are not pleased with.”

The HEEND president told the STAR that signing the CBA could help the institution save around $20 million a year and could have a positive overall effect on other university workers.

“When we negotiated the collective bargaining agreement, we were aware of the circumstances that the university faces, as the country’s budget has been cut back in every government agency, and our university has faced most of the budget reductions, and they keep reducing and reducing,” Santana Andino said. “Within the agreement, there have been rebates on licenses and holidays, which represents savings for the institution.”

Meanwhile, she said, other determinations such as tuition waivers being “unilaterally eliminated,” agreements involving the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and other financial aid would keep additional grant funds within the university.

“There are additional funds that the university administration has not taken the time to account for [in order to ascertain] how much more money is going to come in beside the $20 million that our agreement already saves,” she said. “It’s time for the government to understand that we have a president of the administration who is creating unrest in the university community, and it will eventually lead to problems. They should consider if Haddock should remain in his seat.”

As reported in the STAR on Jan. 22, the HEEND called out the governing board’s pending certification as “unusual and unprecedented” because, the union said, repealing the CBA would put at risk the health insurance plan, salaries, permanence, licenses, preschool development centers, differentials, and all other protections guaranteed under the agreement for some 4,000 union members.

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