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AFT MEMBERS TO VOTE ON NEW CONTRACT

Aug. 28, 2001 — Members of the American Federation of Teachers unions in the territory will gather in the next few days to ratify a new contract, union officials said Monday.
However, they did not disclose any details of the proposed new deal.
Contract negotiations started about a week ago. They were initially aimed at increasing the starting salaries for public school teachers. But because the Turnbull administration had found $10 million to pay salary step increases to government workers following a strike by AFT members late last year, teachers wanted the current negotiations to focus on across-the-board raises.
AFT and government negotiators agreed on a contract late Friday, said Tyrone Molyneaux, St. Croix AFT chapter president. The St. Croix chapter will hold a ratification meeting Wednesday or Thursday. The St. Thomas-St. John AFT chapter will vote Wednesday, said Glen Smith, its president.
Without giving any details, Molyneaux said he was "comfortable" with the proposed agreement.
"Instead of only entry-level increases, the talks centered around salary increases for all members," he said.
Molyneaux said the negotiations lacked the bad feelings present last year when talks were held during a three-week AFT strike.
"The government appeared to be willing to bend more this time around," he said.
Smith said the parties started with a wide gap and negotiations were difficult. But after ground rules were agreed on that included supplementary raises for all AFT members, talks moved swiftly.
"We were both striving to reach middle ground," Smith said. "Now it’s up to the members."

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