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Thursday, April 18, 2024


Feb. 5, 2002 – Territorial Court Judge Ive Swan has ordered prison guards not to engage in any more work stoppages such the one that left two jails on St. Thomas understaffed last weekend.
Swan signed a temporary restraining order at about 9 p.m. Monday ordering guards to return to their posts at the Criminal Justice Complex and Sub Base Annex jails. The two facilities hold a total of about 150 inmates.
On Saturday and Sunday, about two-thirds of the guards who were scheduled to work called in sick, according to court papers. The job action left the Corrections Bureau unable to provide full supervision over the inmates, creating a dangerous situation for the guards on duty and the inmates, Swan wrote.
The Corrections Bureau had to call in off-duty guards and jail administrators to cover the shifts, according to Attorney General Iver Stridiron, whose Justice Department oversees the territory's prison system.
There was no trouble in the jails during the work stoppage, Stridiron said. The guards returned to work Monday and were at their posts again Tuesday, he said.
Virgin Islands law prohibits prison guards, police and firefighters from going on strike, Swan noted in his court order. The judge scheduled a hearing for Friday to hear testimony and arguments over whether he should make his order permanent.
Officials of the United Industrial Workers-Seafarers International Union, which represents the guards, have not given a reason for the work stoppage and did not return telephone calls from the Source on Tuesday.
Stridiron said he believed the dispute had to do with guards' displeasure that they have not been invited to the contract negotiation table with the V.I. government. The guards are currently receiving salaries at the 1998 step level.
Stridiron said he and Corrections Bureau administrators were considering possible disciplinary actions against the guards who called in sick, saying it was clearly an illegal work stoppage and put other guards and inmates in danger.

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