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Latino Daily News

Tuesday January 7, 2014

Puerto Rico Teachers Set to Strike Over Pension Benefit Cuts

Puerto Rico public school teachers have called a 48-hour strike starting Jan. 14, when classes resume, to protest the overhaul of their pension system.

The Broad Front in Defense of the Retirement System for Teachers, which gathers different unions and associations within the sector, on Tuesday approved the strike to force the government to back off the idea of revamping the pensions.

The teachers announced that they will pursue legal action along with the strike with the aim of having the law permitting the reform declared unconstitutional.

Puerto Rico Teachers Association chief Aida Diaz asked all teachers to strongly support the initiative and said that parents should not bring their children to school.

The teachers plan to spend Jan. 14-15 presenting to the Labor Department an alternative to the retirement system modifications introduced by the government with the aim of cutting public expenditures.

The teachers are complaining that the amendments include the loss of rights they have acquired and a worsening of retirement conditions.

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 told Efe last week.

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 Efe.

Those who decide to leave in May will receive an annual pension equal to 75 percent of their final salary.

But under the overhaul signed into law by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, 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.

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