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Teachers Turn Down Contract Offer

June 6, 2008 — The Virgin Islands' two teachers' unions both voted to reject the V.I. government's contract proposal Thursday evening.
"It is the will of the members, so we are back at the table," said Tyrone Molyneux, president of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers.
The St. Croix teachers (AFT Local 1826) met at Alfredo Andrews Elementary School and the St. Thomas/St. John Federation of Teachers (AFT Local 1825) convened at Charlotte Amalie High School Thursday to discuss the government's final proposal.
"Since we have been working on this contract since last June," Molyneux said, "we were delighted to receive the final proposal for salary increases. It was presented to the members and discussed and voted upon, and the members rejected this offer."
Despite the unions' rejection of the contract, Molyneux was optimistic.
"I really think we should be able to come to an agreement," he said. "We have come full circle and now we know the members' concerns. Now we have to come to meetings and work on those areas that were of concern when presented to the members."
The government's contract proposal was hammered out over the last 12 months of negotiations between union leaders and the government's Office of Collective Bargaining, led by Chief Negotiator Jessica Gallivan.
The proposed contract would have run from Sept. 1, 2007 to Aug. 31, 2011. Under the proposal, teachers and professionals with degrees would have starting salaries of $34,000 and top salaries of $71,261 by 2010. Instead of a salary increase for 2007-2008, teachers would get a one-time bonus of $1,700. Teachers would have up to four additional "professional days" per year, extending their work year slightly.
The bonuses, the length of the contract and the professional days were all sticking points with members, Molyneux said.
"Members felt the amount in lieu of salary increases was insufficient," he said. "If they cannot fund the contract, some members were saying to make it a two- or three-year agreement instead of locking in for four years."
Union members felt any additional days tacked onto their workload should have some provision for additional pay.
"It was felt if they are working an additional four or seven days with no compensation, that is to their disadvantage," Molyneux said.
He said cost-of-living increases had outpaced the pay hikes offered.
"In 2005 under the last contract, the cost for a gallon of gas was a dollar less. A pound of rice is more today… Times change," Molyneux said.
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