Government workers in Puerto Rico held a one-day strike on Thursday to protest Gov. Luis Fortuño’s plan to reduce the commonwealth’s workforce by 17,000 to help close a $3.2 billion structural budget deficit.
Thousands of protestors converged outside San Juan in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico’s financial district, to show their opposition to the layoffs. The island’s unemployment rate stands at 15.8%. Overall, the demonstration was peaceful. Several businesses, including the island’s largest shopping center, and schools in the area did close, according to the Center for the New Economy, a nonpartisan think tank in San Juan.
Anticipating the strike, the Puerto Rico Public Private Partnerships Authority earlier this month opted to postpone a public private conference, originally set for Oct. 15 and Oct. 16, to Oct. 22 and Oct. 23 so that it not coincide with the demonstrations. In addition, the seminar will now be held outside San Juan at the El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo. Earlier, the authority planned to hold the conference at Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan.
According to its analysis of Thursday’s strike, the CNE believes certain labor unions would be open to negotiations with the administration to find a compromise agreement on the workforce issues.
“It is probable that the more moderate union leadership will seek some sort of negotiation with the administration, while the more radical unions go their own way,” according to the CNE report.
“Negotiations would probably revolve around reversing some of the layoffs, which are not effective until Nov. 6, and perhaps scaling back the scope of public-private partnerships. This last issue is the principal strategic objective of the unions as PPPs threaten further reductions in union membership in the future.”