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Sunday, July 21, 2024


A Territorial Court judge on Tuesday evening ordered more than 30 St. Thomas police officers back to work after they called in sick earlier in the day.
According to the government’s motion for a temporary restraining order, approximately 33 of the 60 officers in the St. Thomas-St. John District who were scheduled for duty Tuesday morning did not report. Because the officers are classified as Class III employees under a collective bargaining agreement, they are prohibited from striking due to public safety issues.
The protests are in response to Gov. Charles Turnbull’s plans to cut government by 15 percent to balance the fiscal year 2000 budget.
About 20 firefighters in the St. Thomas-St. John District also called in sick Tuesday.
Union leaders for both groups said the actions were not sanctioned. As of Wednesday, police and fire service shifts were fully staffed.
At a protest with other labor leaders Wednesday, Elmo Raymo, president of the St. Thomas Police Benevolent Association, said officers are tired of shortages in supplies and equipment.
"We must send a loud and strong message . . . that you, the people of labor, deserve your raises too."
No job actions by police were reported on St. Croix on Tuesday or Wednesday, said acting Police Chief Novelle Francis.
"There’s no blue flu happening today," Francis said Wednesday. "I don’t know about tomorrow."
Scores of teachers did not report to work Wednesday on St. Thomas in order to attend Senate budget hearings where the Turnbull administration unveiled its government reorganization plan.
At the protest in Emancipation Garden, Glen Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said rank-and-file educators have been "suffering for far too long."
"We’re sick and tired of economic deprivation," he said.
No actions by teachers were reported on St. Croix, said Chi Chi Heywood, first vice president of the St. Croix chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Heywood said the AFT is waiting for a full report on Turnbull’s reorganization plan before St. Croix teachers begin a concerted protest.
"We do have a strategy planned," she said. "But we’re not going to reveal it at this time."
She said a full AFT meeting for the St. Croix chapter is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Heywood said that AFT leaders from both districts and four senators met Tuesday to discuss alternative ways to increase government revenues to fund negotiated contracts. There was also consensus that the Department of Education’s budget should be cut by only 5 percent.
The AFT’s revenue enhancement ideas include:
— Imposing a $5 head tax on cruise ship passengers.
— Taxing cigarettes, imported spirits and imported bottled water.
— Pursuing a return of gasoline excise taxes.
— Making sure Industrial Development Commission beneficiaries are adhering to their obligations.
— Requiring all semiautonomous agencies to contribute to the general fund.
— Eliminating exempt positions.
— Enforcing tax and fee collections.
— Funding the Government Development Bank.
— Implementing early retirement and hiring freeze, specifically for the executive branch.
Leaders of the AFT and the St. Thomas Police Benevolent Association are scheduled to appear before the Finance Committee at 4:30 Thursday to plead their individual cases for no budget cuts for their departments.

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