U.S. District Judge Curtis Gomez ruled against the unions suing over last year’s 8 percent pay cut for most V.I. government employees, rejecting claims the pay cut violated federal law or the U.S. Constitution and denying all pending motions in the case, in an opinion filed Thursday.
Multiple unions representing teachers, school administrators, police and police supervisors, nurses and other V.I. government employees affected by the pay cuts filed suit in federal district court in the U.S. Virgin Islands in July and August of 2011, and the court consolidated the cases.
The several suits argued the act violates the U.S. Organic Acts of 1954, by impairing contracts because the pay cuts violate the unions’ collective bargaining agreements.
Citing federal court precedents, Gomez ruled the pay cuts enacted by the V.I. Legislature are legally permissible abrogations of the union contract because the actions have "a legitimate and important public purpose," there is a lack of readily available alternatives, and the law was crafted to apply across the V.I. government and not directed toward a particular entity.
The only claims remaining arise solely out of V.I. law, Gomez wrote in a companion order directing all the parties to submit briefs within 21 days of the order addressing whether U.S. District Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the state-law claims.
In a statement Thursday, Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said Gov. John deJongh Jr. is "pleased that the District Court acted favorably on those federal issues that were decided by the Court," but would not comment further at this time because litigation continues.
The court’s ruling is not the last word on this case, both because several claims under state law remain before it and because the unions may appeal the ruling.