March 19, 2009 — Support staff and para-professionals of the Virgin Islands Public School System Tuesday rejected a government contract offer that would have offered them lump sum payments in lieu of a salary increase.
The vote came at a meeting of Locals 1825 and 1826 of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation and the St.Croix Federation of Teachers. The locals represent support staff and paraprofessionals (mostly teacher's aides) of the school districts. The union is negotiating the contract for 2007 through 2011.
According to Vernelle S. de Lagarde, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers, the union's rejection of the contract was reported to the government's Office o Collective Bargaining. The employees will continue working at least through March 31 under an extension of the old contract. No work stoppage is planned, she said, but it's not off the table either.
According to de Lagarde, the union wants a new pay scale so that employees will know where they are on the schedule, when they can expect increases. Under the government's proposal, the pay schedule would remain the same as it was under the old contract, and each employee would receive a lump sum payment.
The government offered a total of $650,000 to be divided among the employees for the first year, $750,000 for the second and $900,000 for the final year of he contract.
With approximately 700 employees in the bargaining unit, she said that means that each worker would receive a one time payment for the first year of about $900, and continue to receive the same regular paycheck.
Jessica Gallivan, the chief negotiator for the government's office of collective bargaining, was not available
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