Dec. 7, 2006 — While the administration has already ironed out a collective bargaining agreement with the territory's supervisors, there is currently not enough money available to fund the contract. As a result, Office of Collective Bargaining Chief Negotiator Karen M. Andrews is calling for senators to appropriate $4 million to cover the cost of the negotiated wage increases.
In a recent letter to Senate President Lorraine L Berry, Andrews said that Collective Bargaining had put a $5.6 million request– intended to fund various collective bargaining agreements– in a supplemental budget bill sent down in late August by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
"However, the funds requestedto pay the employeeswere not passed by the Legislature," Andrews wrote. "Instead, the $5.6 million was utilized for other purposes."
At a recent Senate hearing, Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills told senators that the government only has — after subtracting the amount of money appropriated in the fiscal year 2007 budget, along with two subsequent appropriations bills and a bill to fund the construction of a local Supreme Court– $4 million worth of projected revenues left. In her letter, Andrews asked senators to use the money to fund the supervisors' contract.
When contacted Wednesday, Andrews explained that $8 million was included in the FY 2007 budget for contracts "that were new or in the works."
"However, the money needed to fund the first year of the contract was included in the supplemental budget request," she explained. "Since the bill was not passed by the Legislature, we still need $4.3 million to fund the supervisors' contract."
In her letter, Andrews added that the contract covers 422 supervisors working in 21 different government departments and agencies.
"They have not received salary increases since 1998," she wrote. "At a time when we are verbally espousing the need to improve morale in government, bring parity among government employees, and above all, improve the quality of life for our hardworking men and women, to appropriate this money for any other purpose would be a travesty, to say the least."
Andrew's request may prove problematic, however, as senators have already included approximately $4.5 million worth of appropriations in this year's Omnibus Authorization Act, which will come up for a final vote in the Legislature during a session scheduled for Friday.
Supervisors Union President Abdul Ali echoed Andrews' sentiments. When contacted Thursday, Ali explained that the group had "waited for quite a lengthy period of time" for a contract to put in place.
"It's been very sad," he said. "In some cases, the people we're supervising are getting more money than us, which is not really good for morale. We should forego the appropriations included in the Omnibus and use the money to help pay the workers."
Ali added that approximately $30 million in retroactive wages owed to the supervisors by the government– representing a portion of the government's $400 million retroactive wage debt– were waived in order to secure a negotiated contract. In addition, the group agreed that all future wage increases would be contingent upon the employees' receiving a "satisfactory or better" performance rating from their employers.
"Since Ms. Andrews asked for money before in a supplemental bill, and the Legislature chose not to fund it at that time, it would only be fair to take this opportunity to take care of the supervisors," he said. "We're in the loop here, too."
Ali said union representatives would be attending Friday's session in an effort to solicit senators' support for Andrews' proposal, adding, "Like Ms. Andrews said, it would really be a travesty if the money, which was originally set aside for us, is used for another reason."
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