Worker rights groups demand repeal of Labor Reform
Say nullifying the 2017 law will bring islanders ‘mental stability’
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
On the fourth anniversary of then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares signing the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act, better known as the Labor Reform, spokespeople for the No to Labor Reform Movement on Tuesday demanded the law’s repeal because, they say, it did not create jobs as it promised and eliminated workers’ rights.
Spokesperson Wilmarilis Sánchez Romeu told the STAR that the legislation written by the New Progressive Party that had no public hearing, studies or legislative report “should have never been passed.”
“Right after it was signed, we began seeing enterprises [laying] off workers to hire them back under the new reform, which makes employees work with fewer benefits,” Sánchez Romeu said. “The probationary period was increased to nine months, so employers would hire new people and lay them off in eight months and three weeks to keep this cycle going.”
“That’s actually not creating jobs,” she added. “That’s not opening the job market, as many said.”
Sánchez Romeu also told the STAR that after events like Hurricane Maria, the earthquakes that shook the south of Puerto Rico and the coronavirus pandemic, as a result of which many islanders have lost their jobs, citizens are exposed to working under a reform “that only benefits the employer that wants to have modern slaves working on holidays for only $7.25 [an hour], without a Christmas bonus and only six vacation days per year.”
“Everyone is at risk now working under this reform,” she said. “It’s not an issue that only concerns the youth any longer.”
Sánchez Romeu insisted that repealing the reform would give new workers stability in the workplace because “they won’t be scared of losing their jobs in nine months.”
“Repealing the reform could make the youth stay on our island, because they say [we must] avoid [continuing the] talent drain, but this law makes people get out of the island,” she said. “If you have been working for five years for an enterprise and you want to find a better job, once you resign from that job, you move into a new enterprise under this [same] act; it makes you stagnate.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson said legislative bills have been filed with the intention of repealing the reform. Among the bills filed in the Legislature are House Bill (HB) 3, by the Popular Democratic Party; HB 112, by the Puerto Rican Independence Party; and Senate Bill 123, by the Citizen Victory Movement, which expands workers’ rights in addition to repealing the Labor Reform.
“Repealing the reform would also give citizens mental stability, which is … a problem has led to many others,” Sánchez Romeu said.
The Labor Reform led to complaints from various sectors as it modified the Unjustified Dismissal Act and eliminated the Closing Act, allowing businesses to not pay a Sunday premium and to operate on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, Three Kings Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other holidays.