June 18, 2004 – Corrections officers who took part in a 24-hour sickout at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix, prompting a lockdown because of a shortage of security personnel, were ordered to return to work on Friday by the Territorial Court.
The back-to-work order came late Thursday in the form of a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction that had been requested by the Justice Department, within which the Corrections Bureau falls.
Officers assigned to the overnight12-hour shift at Golden Grove began calling in sick around 11 p.m. Wednesday. (See "Golden Grove Locked Down as Guards Call In Sick".)
The change from traditional weekly five-day, 8-hour shifts to a four-day, 2-hour schedule had prompted complaints from the unionized corrections officers.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron said on Friday that the court sided with the Justice Department in ordering and end to the sickout. "The Territorial Court last evening, shortly after we filed our petition for a temporary injunction and permanent injunction, granted the temporary restraining order as we requested," he said.
"The court has ordered all corrections officers to return to their assigned duty posts," Stridiron added, "and they're not to engage in any strike or work stoppage of any kind."
Justice officials are expected to return to court on June 28 to seek a permanent injunction against any further work stoppages.
The restraining order and temporary injunction were issued against officials of the United Industrial Workers of Seafarers International Union, which represents unionized corrections officers in the Virgin Islands. The court order also cited individuals officers who had called in sick.
Attempts on Friday to contact Eugene Irish, president of the Seafarers Union local, were unsuccessful.
About 510 inmates at Golden Grove were placed on lockdown for the duration of the sickout. Stridiron said the action was necessary to ensure the safety of the prisoners and the skeleton crew of officers and supervisory personnel assembled by John Trawick, Corrections Bureau director. No incidents were reported during the lockdown, Stridiron said.
Stridiron said on Friday that he expected all corrections officers and supervisors to resume reporting for duty as scheduled. He also said that as the top management official of the Corrections Bureau, he is willing to sit down with union officials and discuss the list of grievances they had submitted to the warden's office on Tuesday.
"Prior to the job action that was taken on Thursday we had already made determinations that we would be meeting with the union to discuss the grievances," he said.
The three-page list of grievances cites numerous health and safety, security, and wage issues. The attorney general contends the guards are unhappy with the change to 12-hour workdays because the new schedule has cut down on overtime — as it was intended to do.
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