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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


With rejection by the territory's teachers Monday of a three-year contract negotiated by their representatives and the Turnbull administration, union leaders will be heading back to the bargaining table, St. Croix union leader Cecil Benjamin said early Tuesday.
Benjamin, who is ending his long tenure as president of the St. Croix American Federation of Teachers local, said the territorywide AFT vote of 289 in favor of the new contract and 361 opposed means "going back to the drawing board" with the government.
"This is part of the process," Benjamin said on WSTX radio. "It means we’ll just go back to the drawing board and impress on the government to change their position."
With 2000-01 school classes scheduled to begin in less than two weeks, Benjamin didn't speculate on when negotiations might resume. Government negotiator Karen Andrews couldn't be reached for comment early Tuesday morning.
Glen Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John AFT, said many members were frustrated by the small amount of time they had to review the contract before Monday’s vote and were dissatisfied with the provisions regarding retroactive pay.
According to the agreement, the AFT "agrees to release the Virgin Islands government from 50 percent of any and all claims to retroactive monies due and owing those bargaining unit members who are employed with the Virgin Islands government on the date of implementation of the 2000-2001 salary agreement."
That, said St. Croix AFT president-elect Tyrone Molyneaux, was unacceptable. "If the government can’t pay 100 percent, how can it pay 50 percent?" he asked.
Benjamin said he believes the union members’ sticking points can be resolved. "I don’t think it’s something that can’t be done," he said. "Of course, the government will have to agree to further negotiate for this to be resolved."
The rejected contract also included $8.6 million in salary increases for union members for the 1994-95 and 2000-01 school years, while the AFT agreed to waive all rights to negotiated wages for the 1995-96 year. The pact specified that the government and the union could re-enter into wage negotiations for the third year of the contract.

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