After his public remarks on a bill to increase the minimum wage resulted in a barrage of criticism, leading to group of retailers to leave the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (CoC), the entity’s president has issued a public apology.
José E. Ledesma Fuentes apologized to the people who were offended by the answer he gave to Rep. Manuel Natal Albelo during a House hearing last Friday on raising the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour from the current $7.25 an hour.
“Being the president and sole spokesperson for the organization that represents the voice and action of private companies, it is a priority for me to clarify, so I emphasize that - in our presentation presented on Oct. 8, 2019 - the CoC does not oppose measures that represent an economic relief to the labor force [but in this historical moment, that the private sector is being asked to assume the responsibility of absorbing a large part of the labor force in order to reduce government gigantism, it would be an untimely, little thought of, to increase the minimum wage], ”Ledesma said in a statement.
"It would be extremely difficult for the private sector to absorb the cost of the proposal, without making other adjustments in the conditions of employment of workers, such as reducing the working day, reducing costs, among others," he added.
“I, Ledesma, have been an entrepreneur and small businessowner for 25 years, raising my company with dedication and hard work, facing great challenges. For almost two years since I was elected by [CoC] members, I have dedicated practically all my hours without any remuneration to this great institution that is the Chamber of Commerce, to be part of that Voice and Action with all the entrepreneurs that today are fighting to improve our Puerto Rico. Together, we are fighting for the benefit of Puerto Rico in areas such as parity in health funding, nutritional assistance, reducing confiscatory taxes and contributions, such as the inventory tax, reducing energy costs and enacting permits reform, among other core socioeconomic development areas of Puerto Rico.
“I am very aware and I know that the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour - on which hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans base their livelihoods - also puts them in the difficult situation of being able to fulfill their obligations. My main objective at the Chamber of Commerce is to implement economic development initiatives in the aforementioned sectors, and lobby in Puerto Rico and Washington, to promote the level of productivity of the local economy and thus have a positive impact on the wages. of Puerto Ricans,” Ledesma added.
“I reiterate that the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce favors and has always favored that workers receive a fair salary for the work done, and that the government and the private sector collaborate strongly to significantly increase labor participation in Puerto Rico,” he said. “It was never my intention to downplay the challenges faced by people who work for minimum wage.”