October 10, 2001

Puerto Rico strike halts classes

                 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- About 5,000 workers at the University of
                 Puerto Rico staged a second day of strikes Wednesday, halting classes for
                 69,000 students at campuses throughout the island.

                 The strike by non-teaching employees at Puerto Rico's largest university began
                 Tuesday after the university and the Brotherhood of Non-Docent Employees hit an
                 impasse in negotiations over a new labor contract. The strikers, with jobs ranging
                 from security guards to maintenance workers, are demanding better retirement

                 The picketing stopped classes at all of the public university's 11 campuses on the
                 Caribbean island, university officials said.

                 Although the university campuses did not officially close, professors and students
                 stayed home to avoid crossing pick et lines.

                 A meeting will be held Friday to try to resolve the deadlock, university and union
                 officials said.

                 "The university administration is very willing to resume dialogue," said Jorge
                 Sanchez, the university's interim president.

                 Since negotiations began in May, the University of Puerto Rico has agreed with the
                 union on many points in the contract, Sanchez said. But the negotiations broke
                 down on Saturday when the two sides could not agree on a portion of the contract
                 dealing with retirement benefits.

                 In the southern city of Ponce, dozens of picketers protested outside the city's

                 "The sun is punishing, but we remain steadfast in favor of the strike," said Carmen
                 Santiago, a spokeswoman for the striking workers.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.