The Tourism Alliance for Puerto Rico denounced the government’s lack of activity related to a series of agreements related to the public-private partnership in the works for the San Juan docks, which sought to protect the island’s “threatened tourism industry.”
During a news conference, the group that represents public- and private-sector representatives of the tourism industry, said they had met with Gov. Wanda Vázquez last December, when the parties agreed to postpone the signing of the P3 agreement with Global Port Holdings to develop the area in San Juan.
During the meeting, it was agreed to create a working group to address industry concerns related to jobs, transparency and monopoly.
“Following the creation of the group, meetings were held that to date have been limited to trying to achieve a reasonable non-disclosure agreement that ensures the necessary confidentiality for certain elements of the processes but that safeguards access to the minimum necessary information for the benefit of the more than 30,000 potentially affected employees,” said Pamela Calderón, president of Old San Juan Merchants Association (ACOVI, in Spanish).
Daphne Barbeito, of the Tourism Alliance for Puerto Rico, said “The initial language was extremely broad and vague. In addition, despite requesting amendments to the NDA, the second version included language that still did not offer alternatives so that the unions that make up the Alliance could sign it, and it had been agreed that we would all sign it, or nobody would.”
“In view of the fact that we couldn’t complete the amendments and to expedite the work, the Alliance delivered a document with 17 questions regarding information we want to know are included in the contract that is being negotiated with GPH,” Barbeito said.
The questions were delivered Feb. 7 included concerns about: protective measures for collective bargaining agreements and acquired employee benefits; guarantees for agreements between the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and permits granted to transportation providers; influence by the private operator over incentives provided to cruise lines; strategies to improve arrival times for cruise ships to benefit the area’s businesses; and, how commercial activity will be regulated in the areas closest to the docks.
The government has yet to answer the questions, Barbeito said.
“We’re concerned that to this day there is no guarantee to protect unionized employees or transportation companies operating in those docks. No one has been able to truly say that the protection of these jobs is guaranteed in the signing of this contract,” said José Poupal, leader of the PROTGE guild.
Given the circumstances, the union called on the working committee appointed by the governor to answer the questions and eliminate the concerns over the collective bargaining agreements, job guarantees, and other issues.
The group also said they know that Vázquez-Garced received a letter from four cruise lines that offered to assist in improving the docks and support the growth of the island’s cruise business. The group claimed the letter was signed Feb. 7 by P3 Authority Executive Director Fermín Fontanez and demanded that Gov. Vázquez make it public.
“The way this looks today, the Tourism Alliance for Puerto Rico cannot support this project,” Barbeito said. “It’s imperative that cruise lines that from the first day wished to be part of this process be included. Not doing so could have serious consequences for the local tourism industry.”