Although the negotiations between the company Luis Ayala Colón - operator of the Muelle de San Juan - and the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA Local 1740) union should culminate tomorrow (Saturday), the secretary of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH), Carlos Rivera Santiago, revealed that on Monday, they will carry out a visual inspection of the functions and operations of the docks, to clarify the labor controversy that arose in the process.
The controversy revolves around the figure of the "checker," who is the person in charge of controlling where the containers arriving at the port are placed. The task —which requires the use of a computer tablet— was the reason that triggered the strike and stopped the handling of 5,000 containers with merchandise of international origin, and caused the withdrawal of several ships, costing Puerto Rico over $ 100 million in losses. At issue is who should perform that function.
The secretary of the DTRH reported that of the four articles of the labor agreement under discussion, one has already been approved by the parties and two are advanced, but controversy on the checker, which he hopes will be elucidated this Monday.
Although Rivera is confident that an agreement can be reached, he admits that if it is not finalized, the government does not have jurisdiction to intervene.
If so, the responsibility would fall to the federal government through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the National Labor Relations Board.
“As in any negotiation, there are ups and downs, but it has a positive rhythm. We are meeting twice a week; sometimes in the employer's facilities and other times in the department, and we have made some progress. We are confident that on Monday we can move forward after the inspection that we will carry out,” said the official.
“The parties have been willing to sit at the table, dialogue and shed light. We are also offering other mechanisms in view of advancing the process," he added. Among the mechanisms offered, he mentioned are expertise and assistance in health and safety matters.
“There is always a way out, but it falls on the goodwill of the parties. From previous experience, all parties learned and realized that a new stoppage of operations is not convenient for anyone. The employer lost money for not being able to receive the merchandise, the union members for not being able to earn a salary and the people for not being able to receive the goods. Nobody wins here,” he pointed out.