by Clyde Weiss | July 03, 2012
Just over one year after collective bargaining was restored to Puerto Rico’s public service workers, approximately 13,500 employees represented by Servidores Públicos Unidos (SPU)/AFSCME Council 95 are working under contracts that improved their wages, benefits and working conditions.
“This is an achievement of major proportions,” said Council 95 Pres. Annette González. “Some people were betting that we would not get our goals done, and they were wrong.”
Today, two Council 95 locals (3227 and 3234) signed new three-year contracts, bringing to 13 the SPU/AFSCME unions with ratified agreements with the U.S. Commonwealth since December 2011. Those two locals represent office, administrative, technical and social workers of the Family Department (social services).
A 14th local (3840), representing clerical and administrative workers of the Education Department, and non-professional staff, ratified the agreement June 29 and will be signed this week.
All 14 contracts provide bonuses in the first year, followed by wage hikes in the second year of $100 to $140 monthly. In the third year of the agreement, wages will increase by another $100 to $160 monthly. Also, the Commonwealth has agreed to increase its contributions to workers’ health insurance and other benefits.
More than 90 percent of members of each local voted to ratify their contracts, a rate that “demonstrates the importance of having a strong union,” said González.
Council 95’s success in bargaining follows its hard-fought battle to restore collective bargaining rights, which were lost in March 2009 when Gov. Luis Fortuño enacted a fiscal emergency law. More than 17,000 public employees also were laid off.
But the workers fought back over the next two years, reclaiming their bargaining rights in May 2011. “Today we can see the results of such sacrifices,” said González. She said AFSCME, the national union, “was side by side with us throughout this fight.”
At a time when public service workers on the mainland are fighting to retain their collective bargaining rights or struggling to reclaim them, the accomplishments of Puerto Rico’s Council 95 stand out as a beacon of hope. They also demonstrate that unions and public employers can work together – through collective bargaining – to negotiate their differences.
Other SPU/AFSCME Locals that have ratified new contracts since collective bargaining was restored are:
- Natural Resources and Environmental Department employees (Local 2082),
- Forensic Sciences Institute employees (Local 2099),
- Vocational Rehabilitation Administration (Local 3251),
- Correction and Rehabilitation Department corrections officers (Local 3500),
- Administration of Juvenile Institutions civil workers (Local 3559),
- Pretrial Services office workers (Local 3573),
- Parole Board employees (Local 3584),
- Natural Resources and Environmental Department park rangers (Local 3647),
- Transportation and Public Works office workers (Local 3889),
- Public Service Commission employees (Local 3897), and
- Consumer Affairs employees (Local 3986).