A few days after Judge Laura Taylor Swain declared the 2022 labor reform null and void, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) delegation reintroduced the bill in the House.
House Bill 1651 was filed yesterday morning, even though House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hern?ndez said that he will appeal the decision.
HB 1651 contains the same provisions of the measure that Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed into law as Act 41 in June 2022, which the judge presiding over Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy proceedings struck down eight months later.
Act 41 reinstated some of the rights that private sector workers lost with the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act in 2017 (Act 4-2017).
Swain’s decision was based on the fact that the government did not submit an assessment of the economic impact of this measure on the labor sector and tax revenues.
Yesterday, El Nuevo D?a reported that there is uncertainty and confusion in the labor sector, as employers do not know what to do regarding the benefits they offer to their employees.
Some employers have even begun consulting with their lawyers about how to recover the money they paid as Christmas bonus to workers who, according to Swain’s ruling last Friday, would not have been entitled to them.
The adverse ruling against the government has caused confusion and uncertainty in the labor sector. In an attempt to shed light on the matter, the Secretary of the Labor and Human Resources Department (DTRH, Spanish acronym), Gabriel Maldonado Gonz?lez, told El Nuevo D?a that he was working on an opinion that will be ready this week.
Afirm? el secretario que, aunque han transcurrido pocos meses desde la aprobaci?n de la Ley 41, las cifras de empleo no reflejan que haya habido un disloque en el mercado laboral.
The Secretary said that although Act 41 was in effect only a few months, employment data do not reflect any disruption in the labor market.
For example, seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment increased from 913,900 in June to 927,100 in December. And the number of people employed, according to the Grupo Trabajador survey, was 1.103 million in June and increased to 1.117 million in December, the Secretary said.
“It’s not that we are going to vote on this now, this is part of the strategy. We’re going to continue in court. Obviously, there may be some procedural approaches in the future, and if we have to approve it again, we are ready,” Hern?ndez said.
Over the weekend, Hern?ndez announced that he would appeal Judge Swain’s ruling on Act 41-2022. He said the court ruling was the result of Governor Pierluisi’s “mediocre” defense of the law.
“This would be a second round so that the Executive Branch, in accordance with PROMESA, formally presents the assessment on the economic impact of this measure, which is positive,” Hern?ndez said.
The House Speaker pointed out that the Oversight Board, the body that challenged Act 41-2022, has failed to present, its different versions of the fiscal plan, estimates related to the reality reflected in the official data.
He explained that last October, the House submitted to Judge Swain a 26-page report prepared by University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Economy professor Iyari R?os Gonz?lez, which details the “positive” impact of Act 41-2022.
The report, according to Hern?ndez, shows that the impact of Act 41-2022 is not negative for the economy, but on the contrary, “this legislation is ideal for a historic moment in which the island is benefiting from the injection of more than $120 billion in federal funds.
Hern?ndez added that the report shows, with official economic data, that labor policies approved by the government since the beginning of the fiscal crisis “have not been able to reverse the economic stagnation. On the contrary, these policies have accelerated migration and caused a population loss of more than 20 percent in Puerto Rico.”
“We will not rest in our defense of workers’ rights, and that is why we will appeal this decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston,” said the Chamber leader.
As part of future strategies, Hern?ndez said he will travel to Washington to lobby Congress for an amendment to PROMESA Section 204 to allow the Legislative Assembly to submit the fiscal impact report, a responsibility that currently falls exclusively to the Executive Branch, he said.
Responding to complaints
On the other hand, the House Speaker described as “insensitive” the demand raised by some businessmen who indicated that they are interested in recovering the money they paid to their employees for the Christmas bonus.
“It shows insensitivity. They are disconnected from the reality that this Legislative Assembly, this government – and I have to include the governor – we have done everything to activate the economy and give opportunities to the private sector in Puerto Rico,” he said.
Leysa Caro collaborated with this story.