Puerto Rico Utilities Unions Agree On General Strike Against Austerity, Urges Public To Stop Paying Electricity/Water Bills
The main unions representing Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (PRASA) and Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) workers approved strike votes on Tuesday over proposed fiscal emergency legislation that will cut benefits for employees across the island government and close 100 public schools.
Members of UTIER, as the chief union at Prepa is known, met in an assembly Tuesday where they unanimously approved a strike vote.
“We are going to paralyze this island until this law is stopped,” UTIER President Angel Figueroa Jaramillo said.
He also called on islanders to stop paying their electricity and water bills.
Union members then took their protests to the middle of Plaza Las Américas, the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean.
The unions are standing against the austerity budget proposed this spring by members of the U.S. commonwealth’s General Assembly to deal with the country’s recent bond downgrade and looming payment of its debts to bondholders.
The Fiscal Sustainability Act of the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as the budget is called, would allow the government to bring in “emergency powers” to deal with the crisis. Under this authority, it could renegotiate all public employees’ contracts, liquidate unused sick days, and freeze salaries—thereby gutting workers’ collective bargaining powers. Privatizing the commonwealth’s electrical company, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, has also been placed on the table as an option for stanching the crisis; the emergency measures would also include closing 100 public schools.