Despite fiscal woes, the V.I. Public Employee Relations Board continues to close more employment complaint cases than are filed each year, and with 72 pending complaints has its smallest backlog since taking over the task in 1995, PERB officials said at budget hearings Wednesday.
“For a second year this is again the lowest amount of pending cases that the PERB has had since inheriting section 530 and 531 cases from the Government Employees Commission in 1995," PERB Chairman Aubrey Lee said in submitted written testimony. Section 530 and 531 are the passages of V.I. Code concerning workplace discrimination and wrongful dismissal. At this time last year, PERB had a backlog of 82 cases, which was the lowest backlog since 1995 until this year.
PERB has seen 76 cases filed and 92 cases closed so far in Fiscal Year 2012, according to information presented by legal counsel Larry Raymond-Roy. This is a higher rate of closure than 2011, when PERB saw 73 cases filed and closed 81, and a lower closure rate than 2010 when PERB saw 80 cases filed and 121 cases closed.
The Public Employee Relations Board is a party in 24 court cases, 23 of which are pending before Superior Court and one before the V.I. Supreme Court, Raymond-Roy testified.
The board provides mediation and arbitration services between government employees and management, as well as training for mediators, employees, managers and other interested people. A dispute with a government employer goes first to PERB for a quasi-judicial hearing, and can then be appealed to the V.I. Superior Court. It also certifies and decertifies union representation based upon union votes.
Officials were before the Senate Finance Committee in Frederiksted to discuss the board’s FY13 recommended budget appropriation is $1.1 million. Of that, $564,000 or 51 percent covers wages and salaries, and $183,000 goes to Social Security, Medicare and other benefit-related expenses for its 11 staff members. The catch-all category of “other services and charges” accounts for $273,000 or 25 percent of the total budget request. This amount includes professional services including payments for a hearing examiner, network management services, communications, startup costs for a training initiative, board and staff professional development, equipment and office rental and interisland travel.
Utilities are budgeted at $36,000 for St. Croix. Utilities are included at their St. Thomas offices. $15,000 is slated for capital outlays, in the form of upgrading outdated computer hardware, software and new copiers and scanners.
No votes were taken at the budget oversight hearing. Committee members present were Chairman Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Sens. Sammuel Sanes, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Celestino White Jr. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, who is not a member of the Finance Committee, was present as well. Absent were Sens. Louis Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone and Janette Millin-Young.