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Truckers in Puerto Rico are demanding a shift in wages. Photo: puertoricoheadlinenews.com
Truckers in Puerto Rico are demanding a shift in wages. Photo: puertoricoheadlinenews.com

Puerto Rican Truckers go on strike as Governor Pierluisi says rumors of 35% cargo rate increase are “nonsense”

Truckers represent a vital cog in Puerto Rico’s supply chain. Without them means more strife for the island.

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Last Wednesday, July 21, Puerto Rico’s largest truck drivers union went on strike to demand cargo rates go up so drivers receive a higher raise.

The strike ceased the work of thousands of truckers who are responsible for importing essential goods and merchandise to the island. Around 80% of Puerto Rico’s merchandise is imported, making truckers vital to the supply chain of everyday goods.

However, the Frente Amplio trucking service recently reported they have made arrangements with the police so the strike would not affect the supply of pharmaceuticals.

Two days after the strike began, Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi announced he will strike a temporary deal with the truckers. 

He tweeted on Thursday, July 22: “The government of Puerto Rico, together with the Transportation Department, reached an agreement to reestablish the distribution chain and bring peace to our island.” 

There are also reports it includes a 35% cargo rate increase.

Antonio Medina, a member of Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight Management Board (FOMB), who was appointed by President Donald Trump in December 2020, told members of the press that the potential 35% increase will financially hurt Puerto Ricans and the Department of Treasury.

Pierluisi called claims of a 35% increase “nonsense.”

“There is a lot of misinformation, for example, I see in the media that they talk about an increase in products of 35%. This is nonsense because the cost of transporting the product is negligible in relation to the total cost of the product,” he told El Nuevo Dia.

Pierluisi also did not say what specific actions the government would take to increase wages for cargo truckers, but did suggest they go to public hearings beginning in August if they feel a raise is necessary. The hearings are to develop new regulations and potentially draft a new deal with truckers.

He went on to say that no increased that there has been no increase in cargo rates in 16 years.

“We will begin an immediate process to achieve a new regulation that reflects the needs of all sectors and safeguards the well-being of our people,” Pierluisi said to Twitter. “We have concentrated on giving Puerto Rico certainty by addressing this situation promptly and prudently.”

While cargo truckers are hoping to increase their wages, the government is also unsure if the island could actually afford it. The Puerto Rican economy has been suffering a recession for over a decade, which has led to an overwhelming amount of debt and lack of support from the U.S. mainland.

Not only is there a terrible amount of debt, but the unemployment rate increased in 2020, reaching an estimated 8.6% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On an island that is home to over 3.1 million people, Puerto Rico’s household income in 2019 was $20,474, with its poverty rate being 44.1%, according to data from DataUSA

If the prices of products such as food supplies increase, most Puerto Ricans will likely not be able to afford them.

So far, negotiations are still up in the air.

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