SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rossello will ensure that the labor rights of Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) personnel are respected as cops maintain a sick-out over unpaid overtime, the government of this US commonwealth said on Tuesday.
“The governor is aware of the heroic labor of our police and in moments of fiscal crisis he will continue seeking alternatives to do justice for these tireless workers,” Public Policy Secretary Ramon Rosario Cortes said in a statement.
More than 2,500 members of the 12,000-strong PRPD called in sick on Monday amid a dispute with management over payment for overtime racked up in the weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
Many PRPD officers found themselves working shifts of up to 16 hours after the storm made landfall Sept. 20, knocking out utilities and leaving most of Puerto Rico’s roads impassable.
Delays in compensating officers for overtime are a legacy of previous administrations, Rosario Cortes said, pointing out that so PRPD members have received more than $45 million in overtime pay so far this year.
That figure will exceed $50 million by the end of 2017, more than $15 million than the comparable number for last year, he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided the Puerto Rican administration with $5 million to defray the cost of police overtime related to the hurricane.
But the union says that instead of disbursing the extra pay, the PRPD has returned timesheets to officers with the claim that they were not filled-out correctly.
The blame, according to the union, lies with PRPD chief Michelle Hernandez de Fraley, whose rigidity has made the process much more complicated than it needs to be.