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Meeting Cancelled: Still No Teachers' Contract

August 21, 2004 – The St. Croix Federation of Teachers has cancelled a general membership meeting called for Wednesday, Aug.25. According to St. Croix local AFT President Tyrone Molyneaux, the meeting was postponed because the Office of Collective Bargaining will be meeting on that day with AFT union leaders to discuss contract negotiations.
Molyneaux said union officials would meet with OCB chief negotiator Karen M. Andrews and then "inform the members where we are in regards to contract negotiations." The teachers' contract expires Aug. 31, Molyneaux said.
At this time the AFT membership is not contemplating a general strike. But that does not rule out the possibility. "Whatever action taken will be the will of the membership," Molyneaux said.
The AFT went on strike between October and November 2000. During those three weeks the education system was crippled. "We shut down a hundred percent of the schools on all three islands," Molyneaux said.
The 2000 strike resulted from the administration's stance that 50 percent of retroactive pay owed teachers be forgiven, and clauses in the contract that would have stripped teachers of increases between 1995 and 2000. (See "Teachers: Strike Until There Is a Solution".)
The St. Croix AFT president recently updated teachers on the status of their 2003-2004 contracted raises. He said the V.I. Finance Department is "in the process of working on the NOPAs." NOPA is an acronym for notice of personnel action; every government employee is required to have a NOPA, signed by the governor, to receive payment for services.
Molyneaux said the present contract negotiations are about more than salaries. "We are concerned about non-economic issues as well," he said.
Molyneaux noted that the language in the contract has not been modified, amended or changed since 1991.
Molyneaux said among other concerns to teachers are block-scheduling, accreditation, new positions that have come into existence since 1991 and stipends for extracurricular activities such as sports and music programs, and other after-school programs.
Regarding the status of the schools, Molyneaux said, "We are back to the same old problem." In his opinion school repairs are only 50 percent completed. Molyneaux said much of the painting and repairs have not been completed and schools are still being vandalized on a regular basis.
"I was advised that Central High School was vandalized last week, and the Eulalie Rivera School was also vandalized."
Repairs to the kitchen at the Arthur A. Richards Junior High are still pending, he added. The kitchen was damaged in Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Since then food for the students has to be prepared at the St. Croix Educational Complex in Lower Love and transported to the junior high located in Hannah’s Rest in Frederiksted.
"This throws off the schedule for the school and sometime the students don't get to have lunch on time," Molyneaux said.
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