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Puerto Rico’s Mona Island security officers file complaints with the state

Photo by Geilynet Montalvo
Puerto Rico’s Mona Island security officers file complaints with the state
By Meredith Scalos ·
Puerto Rico’s Mona Island security officers file complaints with the state
Mona Island (circled), or Isla de Mona, is the third-largest island of the Puerto Rican archipelago, after the main island of Puerto Rico and Vieques.

Puerto Rico’s weather can be challenging to work in on a good day, let alone during inclement conditions.

Members of the Servidores Públicos Unidos de Puerto Rico (SPU), Local 3647 (AFSCME Council 95), are responsible for many of the public safety functions for Mona Island, one of Puerto Rico’s smaller, western islands, including maintaining a safe environment for civilians and wildlife. The unique job that these members have requires them to take a ferry to and from Mona Island and spend up to several weeks at a time living there to provide these vital services.

These employees play a key role in ensuring the safety and security of both Mona Island and Puerto Rico. But their accommodations are unacceptable and even border on inhumane for El Cuerpo de Vigilantes, The Park Rangers Corps, a division of the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) that’s responsible for watching over Mona Island, according to complaints filed by SPU.

“Unfortunately, our colleagues from Mona Island are facing terrible working conditions, which threaten their health and safety,” said Marcos Pagán, president of the Union of the Park Rangers Corps, SPU Local 3647. “These park rangers have to live on this island for seven consecutive days, 24/7, and have had to stay for up to 21 consecutive days due to weather and sea conditions, damaged boats, among other setbacks.”

The Park Rangers Corps is in charge of the island's security, including the agency's civilian personnel, boats and hunters, but the living conditions for these officers are dismal, Pagán said.

“The park rangers spend the night in a residence where they lack a stable roof, with leaks, damaged doors and windows. There are no maintenance or improvements,” Pagán said.

DNER also can’t use its aircraft to transport the officers to and from the island. The plane has been sidelined since Dec. 30, 2019, because it doesn’t comply with federal regulations.

To thank these members for their public service with appalling conditions like not having a working plane for transport for more than a year, damaged vehicles on the island, moldy accommodations, hazardous broken steps, flooring and appliances in their workplaces and housing is unacceptable, the union says.

“These conditions are not suitable for human beings and we are asking the secretary for a meeting with all the Park Rangers Corps personnel who work in Mona Island,” Pagán said, referring to the complaint issued by the members with the DNER secretary.

SPU Local 3647 members await a response from the secretary, and are prepared to take the complaint to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if necessary, he added.

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