Puerto Rico firefighters secure wage increase after protests

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Thursday announced a $500 monthly salary increase for firefighters a day after they joined thousands of public employees in a protest to demand higher wages and improved pensions.

The money will temporarily come from federal funds that run out in 2026 until officials identify a local source to make the increase permanent, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said.

Firefighters in the U.S. territory earn a base salary of $1,500 a month but were seeking $2,500 plus an improved pension plan.

Pierluisi noted that the $500 increase goes into effect July 1, the same day firefighters also would receive an additional $125 increase previously approved by a federal control board that oversees the island’s finances.

Earlier this week, Pierluisi also announced a $1,000 monthly increase for teachers, school principals, regional superintendents and others. That announcement came after 70% of public school teachers left their classrooms last week and took to the streets to demand higher wages.

Their salary increase is dependent on federal funds that run out in 2024.

The recent announcements come as the island of 3.2 million people tries to emerge from a deep economic crisis and restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion public debt load as part of a bankruptcy process.

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