UTIER urges members to continue struggle against privatization of PREPA

By The Star Staff

The Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union, which began a 24-hour work stoppage Monday night, urged its members to attend an assembly today to decide what their next steps are going to be in their battle to have the public-private partnership contract between LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) canceled or amended.

Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of UTIER, as the union is known in Spanish, called for members to attend the assembly in a Facebook video.

He also issued a separate video to advise managerial workers against joining LUMA.

“You are not going to have job security with LUMA Energy,” he said.

He acknowledged that because of the uncertainty, many employees are seriously considering moving to LUMA Energy.

As of late Monday, other unions had issued videos stating they will join UTIER’s struggle, including the General Workers Union, UNETE and the Central Workers Union.

The 15-year contract was signed in June 2020 between PREPA and LUMA Energy, which will take over the utility’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system on June 1. The contract, which does not recognize the collective bargaining agreement of unionized workers, is currently in the front-end transition phase.

Under the agreement, PREPA will pay LUMA a fixed annual rate that will start at $70 million the first year, increase to $90 million the second year and to $100 million the third year. LUMA also gets reimbursed for other expenditures and will receive additional payments as incentives for meeting certain metrics.

The stoppage takes place amid revelations that PREPA is not yet ready for LUMA Energy to take over the T&D system on June 1, according to a letter sent by the former public utility’s human resources director and made public by UTIER.

Marc Thys said in the letter dated March 12 that LUMA Energy had yet to make an offer to workers, a process that requires an additional two weeks to be completed.

Meanwhile, Omar Marrero, executive director of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, allegedly told lawmakers during a meeting at La Fortaleza that there was nothing the government could do about the bankrupt PREPA pension system.

The STAR learned that the pension system may be turned into a “PAYGO” structure at a cost of $300 million to the power utility.

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