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Saturday, July 2, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGovernment Slates Negotiations with 911 Operators Union

Government Slates Negotiations with 911 Operators Union

The Virgin Islands government will begin negotiations Tuesday with the United Steelworkers, the union representing 911 operators, after getting an opinion from the Office of Collective Bargaining that 911 operators are not currently entitled to "night pay differential," according to a statement released Saturday by Government House.

The operators have not been formally covered by a contract since 2008, the statement noted.

According to the release, VITEMA Director Elton Lewis Friday updated the government on efforts under way across several government agencies to address the issue.

“Staff at VITEMA has worked with officials of the Division of Personnel and the Office of Collective Bargaining to research the issues and make a determination as regards the monies that are owed to the 911 dispatchers in the form of night-pay differential,” Lewis said. “We have sorted out this issue while at the same time made permanent appointments for squad leaders and working with OCB to schedule a resumption of negotiations with the United Steelworkers Union towards an employment contract for the 911 operators.”

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According to Lewis, questions arose about whether the 911 operators who work rotating shifts are eligible for night pay differential. OCD has determined that night-pay differential is only paid to employees of the government who work a regular night shift between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The differential pay does not apply to employees on rotating shifts. 911 operators are rotating shift employees. As a result, effective July 18, the agency ended the practice of making night-pay differential payments to the 911 operators.

“What is at issue, however, is the fact that since the operators came on board in 2008, night-pay differential payments had commenced but were suspended in 2010 until a final policy determination had been made. VITEMA is in the process of calculating the total of all night pay-differential owed between 2008 and 2010 and payment will be made to the 911 operators,” Lewis said.

Recently, six 911 operators who had been serving as acting squad leaders were notified of their appointment to permanent positions within the 911 Emergency Call Centers. New "Notices of Personnel Action" documents are being prepared to reflect the new job titles and salary adjustments, he said.

“The squad leaders and all 911 operators provide an essential service in keeping the community safe. They are the link between our residents and our first responders, whether police officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians. I salute them for the job they do each day to keep our community safe and acknowledge their patience as we have sorted through a myriad of issues governing their employment with VITEMA,” Lewis said.

Lewis said VITEMA staff will continue to pursue opportunities for the 911 operators to become nationally certified, which will result in compensation adjustments. He added that as of now, the 911 operators are working on their local certifications so as to qualify nationally.

Negotiations for the 911 operators’ collective bargaining agreement have been scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday. The negotiations are aimed at reaching a contract with the United Steelworkers Union on behalf of the 911 operators in both districts.

“These employees have been working since 2008 without the benefit of a formal contract in place. We are looking forward to successful negotiations with the USW. We continue to tackle a number of unresolved issues relating to employment conditions and compensation. But in the process, we are mindful of the need to conduct thorough research and determine the path forward for the agency as well as the employees. As such, I thank those employees for their dedication and patience as we work to implement sound policy to guide the agency forward,” Lewis said.

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