UTIER: LUMA violating contract, planning to hire new employees
By The Star Staff
LUMA Energy, in violation of the contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to manage the utility’s transmission and distribution system, will hire new personnel instead of the employees already working at PREPA, Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of Electricity Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym), said Wednesday.
“Luma, in desperation, is already preparing a job fair, I think in Miramar, at the Convention Center,” Figueroa Jaramillo said in a Radio Isla 1320 AM report. “This shows that they have no interest in the so-called guaranteed jobs that they claimed to have with the Electric Power [Authority] employees. It doesn’t exist.”
The union leader said the workers will not receive the benefits currently provided by the utility.
“People under new conditions, new criteria,” Figueroa Jaramillo said about LUMA Energy’s plans with the job fair.
The UTIER president warned, meanwhile, about the lack of official PREPA documents to justify an increase in the electricity rate, which may lead to “surprises” when rate hikes are slated to take place.
LUMA Energy LLC is a consortium made up of Quanta Services, IEM and ATCO that was selected by the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A).
The contract does not require LUMA Energy to hire PREPA workers and it says the company will begin an interview process with the employees.
In previous interviews, Figueroa Jaramillo has charged that the LUMA contract is one-sided and favors the interests of the consortium over the interests of the people of Puerto Rico. The union filed a lawsuit recently in the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau’s approval of the deal over the summer.
At a recent public hearing in Congress, P3A Executive Director Fermín Fontanés denied the LUMA Energy contract will result in layoffs of current PREPA employees and the loss of acquired benefits.
“I want to make clear that no employee will lose their job as a result of this transaction. The contract specifically requires LUMA to use reasonable efforts to interview all PREPA employees and evaluate them for positions at LUMA,” he said. “It is important to note that, as recently as eight years ago, PREPA employed about 9,000 employees and today the number is closer to 6,000. There is no doubt that PREPA is currently understaffed.”
Any employee who elects not to join LUMA will have the right to maintain their employment with PREPA or transfer to another government agency within Puerto Rico.
“These rights are clearly established in Act 120 and cannot be taken away – not through the contract with LUMA or otherwise,” Fontanés said. “Employees continuing with PREPA or another governmental agency will also retain their acquired rights under applicable law and the relevant collective bargaining agreement. Nothing in the LUMA agreement contravenes those acquired rights, and LUMA is required to comply with all federal and local laws.”
As part of the transition to LUMA, employees will have the choice to stay with their existing pension plan or transfer to a new LUMA plan.
Once LUMA hires its workforce, it expects to recognize the unions with majority status in the various bargaining units, in compliance with all applicable labor laws.