Ricardo Rosselló signed the executive order that raised the minimum wage in construction projects with public funds to $ 15 in the summer of 2018. Then it was reported that he never consulted the measure with the industry. In the background, the now governor Wanda Vázquez. (Teresa Canino Rivera)
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced suspended the executive order that established a minimum wage of $ 15 for workers on construction projects financed totally or partially with public funds.
The suspension is included in Executive Order 2020-075, which in turn invalidates Executive Order 2018-033, issued in July 2018 by then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló. This decree, now suspended, also promoted compliance with the laws that require the use of cement produced in Puerto Rico and the signing of labor agreements for projects funded with public money.
“The difficult situation that the construction industry has experienced has been further aggravated as a result of the closure and distancing measures taken in response to the emergency decreed by COVID-19. Although the careful and staggered opening of different economic sectors has allowed the resumption of construction projects, the total stoppage that was necessary to implement for approximately two months has had a serious effect on this industry, “the governor alleged in a statement. “As a consequence, it is imperative to rethink the recent measures that have been adopted concerning the construction industry and evaluate their effects, advantages and disadvantages, so that future decisions are based on the reality of the industry in these times of COVID -19 and aimed at the sustainability of this important sector ”.
According to Vázquez, “multiple sectors” have requested that the impact of the implementation of OE-2018-033 be evaluated in the industry, which also carries out projects with private funds that do not have the minimum wage requirement of $ 15 an hour and that In order to acquire and retain talent, it is alleged that he has had to incur more expenses and raise the cost of the projects.
The new OE 2020-075 will be applied prospectively. Therefore, construction projects financed in whole or in part with funds from the government, its agencies, instrumentalities, and public corporations that begin or are published after today will be exempt from the provisions of OE-2018-033. However, the contracts or agreements signed, including subsequent amendments, in accordance with the provisions of OE-2018-033 will continue in force, according to the agreed terms and conditions, it was reported.
During this period of suspension, a working group composed of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH), the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), the Department of Housing, the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3 ), the Infrastructure Financing Authority, the State Insurance Fund Corporation and members of the private sector, together with any other agency that they deem pertinent and the private sector, will carry out the corresponding studies and evaluations, so that it can Issue a recommendation on the potential repeal or amendment of OE-2018-033.
Likewise, it will evaluate the possible repeal or amendment to the different regulations issued by the agencies related to the implementation of OE-2018-033, including the Interpretative Guides issued by the DTRH in its Circular Letter No. 2018-001. This group must issue recommendations on or before November 30, 2020.
“The construction industry is one of the main sources of employment in Puerto Rico, especially for working-class people who have been most affected by the economic and fiscal crisis of the past years and by the measures taken to combat COVID- 19. Therefore, it is the government's ministerial duty to ensure the well-being and stability of both construction workers and the industry itself, ”Vázquez concluded.