Photo: Residente (aka Rene Perez)
“My grandmother was a teacher for 30 years. I’m representing her as one more militant and doing my part as a common citizen,” Rene Perez told Efe at the doors of historic Central High in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood.
The singer’s father and brother also joined the teachers and other demonstrators forming a picket line in solidarity with what is occurring in hundreds of schools across the island.
Residente said his presence was a gesture of support for the teachers because they are “a fundamental (part) of the students and of education, which is a fundamental part of any country.”
The Broad Front in Defense of the Retirement System for Teachers, which gathers together different unions and associations in the sector, called a 48-hour strike to force the government to reverse course.
The teachers announced that, in addition to the strike that began on Tuesday, they will also pursue legal action seeking to have the law enabling the pension overhaul overturned.
Regarding the approval of that law, Perez criticized the fact that Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed it quickly, despite the demonstrations that teachers were staging at the Capitol at the end of last year.
“I just would like the teachers to be listened to, and if rules need to be broken let them do so with good and creative things. We need to be more creative; governments with greater creativity,” the winner of multiple Grammy awards said.
Meanwhile, the president of the Teachers Association of Puerto Rico, Aida Diaz, asked the educators to massively support the initiative and said that parents should refrain from taking their children to school.
Thousands of Puerto Rican teachers with 30 years of service will likely retire in May to avoid a substantial cut in their pensions, the leader of the Educamos union recently told Efe.
Nearly 8,000 of Puerto Rico’s roughly 36,000 teachers will be eligible to retire at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, Eva Ayala said.
Those who decide to leave in May will receive an annual pension equal to 75 percent of their final salary.
But under the overhaul, veteran teachers who delay their retirement beyond May 2014 will get pensions equal to 65 percent of their final salaries.
The reform also increases the employee contribution from 9 percent to 10 percent and establishes a minimum retirement age of 62 for newly hired teachers.
Puerto Rico’s teachers are not part of the U.S. Social Security system.
An overhaul of the teachers’ pension system was demanded by ratings agencies who are threatening to downgrade Puerto Rican government bonds to junk status.