Conflicts & War

Puerto Rican workers march for better pay, pensions

San Juan, Feb 18 (EFE).- Thousands took part here Friday in marches organized by Puerto Rican unions to press demands for higher salaries and improved pensions.

Previous protests prompted the governor of this United States commonwealth in the Caribbean, Pedro Pierluisi, to promise raises of $1,000 and $500 a month, respectively, for teachers and firefighters.

Edwin Morales, vice president of the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico, told Efe that his union returned to the streets of San Juan on Friday to remind the administration of the need to increase pensions.

“While we understand that the pay raise is a step in the right direction, there is much to accomplish. We’re tired of promises. We want actions to make the position of teacher in Puerto Rico a valued and dignified profession,” the math instructor said.

“We’re not asking for something out of this world. Here they are paying many investors who acted to profit from the bankruptcy of the country and that is immoral,” Morales said, referring to the decisions of the Fiscal Oversight Board appointed by Washington to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt.

The march, organized by unions representing teachers, university professors and other public sector workers, set out from Hiram Bithorn Stadium and briefly blocked traffic on the Las Americas expressway before heading to the office of the Oversight Board, known here as the “Junta,” which many Puerto Ricans blame for imposing austerity.

The executive director of the Puerto Rican government’s pensions committee, Luis M. Collazo, and Education Secretary Eliezer Ramos announced Friday that the Junta had authorized measures that would permit 2,919 teachers to retire on pensions equal to 75 percent of their salaries.

The procession including the teachers was the second of the day in San Juan, as health workers – mainly nurses, pharmacy technicians and paramedics – marched hours earlier to demand raises on a par with those given to educators and firefighters.

Base pay for those jobs is currently less than $2,000 a month. EFE


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