UTIER chief not surprised LUMA chose another union
By John McPhaul
Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of the Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), said Monday that he was not surprised that the Insular Union of Industrial and Electrical Construction Workers (UITICE by its Spanish initials) was selected by LUMA Energy as the exclusive representative of the consortium’s employees and called the process undemocratic and “a clear conspiracy of Héctor Reyes, the president of the UITICE, for not looking after the best interests of the workers and the people.”
“We are not surprised. This was already known and you could see it coming,” Figueroa Jaramillo said in a written statement. “Before LUMA came into operation, this abuse of the workers was already being ironed out between the employer and UITICE. The track record of Héctor Reyes speaks for itself; betrayal and leaving those represented by him alone is his calling card. We saw how, in the transition process, he turned his back on his membership, most of whom repudiated the contract, to go after the crumbs that LUMA offered him. The membership repeatedly asked him for assemblies and Reyes canceled. Furthermore, he did nothing to guarantee workers’ rights through the successor employer bill. If that is how he treated those he represents, what can you expect him to do now? Nothing different.”
The UTIER president went on to point out that the union selection process was undemocratic because it did not allow elections and technically it was the employer who selected the union to represent its employees.
“When the employer is the one who selects the union that is going to represent its employees, one already has the idea of what that relationship will be like,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “You will see a union that is not going to control the employer, that is not going to ensure the best interests of its enrollment. A union and a president who are sold for any crumb offered by the employer and with the track record of Héctor Reyes, that is, unfortunately, what they can expect from this union-employer relationship.”
He reiterated that UTIER will continue to fight against the contract with LUMA Energy “that increases the [power] rate and does not guarantee an improvement in the electrical system as it has demonstrated.”
He added that UTIER officials are working on the creation of a structure that will group all the employees of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) who were mobilized to work in other government agencies.
“The UTIER is alive and will continue alive and with more force,” Figueroa Jaramillo said.
LUMA Energy, operator of the electric power transmission and distribution system in Puerto Rico since June 1, confirmed Monday that UITICE formally requested recognition as an exclusive representative of collective bargaining for an employee bargaining unit.
In a written statement, LUMA Energy said “UITICE has achieved majority representation, confirmed by an impartial arbitrator, and LUMA recognizes UITICE as the bargaining representative of a LUMA employee bargaining unit.”
“LUMA hopes to begin negotiations regarding a collective bargaining agreement and establish a relationship with the union, governed by the National Labor Relations Law,” LUMA Energy said in the statement.