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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
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STX TEACHERS PENALIZED FOR SICKOUTS

A motion by St. Croix teachers to block a Department of Education order docking them a day’s pay for staging job sickouts was denied by a Territorial Court judge Thursday afternoon.
Last week the St. Croix chapter of the American Federation of Teachers requested Judge Edgar Ross grant a preliminary injunction against Commissioner of Education Ruby Simmonds’ decision to dock the pay of teachers who participated in alternating sickouts at every school on St. Croix the last two weeks of September. Simmonds said the continuing sickouts violated the collective bargaining agreement of 1991.
On Thursday, Ross denied the AFT motion, although he noted that the 1991 agreement had promised teachers salary increases. He also noted the Legislature’s failure to appropriate funding for the raises, and that teachers have "consistently complained" of the government’s failure to provide the raises.
The government argued, however, that the AFT should have sought a remedy through the Department of Education and the Public Employees Relations Board’s grievance process before filing in court.
Ross agreed, saying that a resolution by administrative channels was plausible.
He also said that as commissioner, Simmonds had the right to impose leave without pay as a disciplinary action.
Although denying the AFT’s motion, Ross said he sympathized with the teachers as far as the back-pay issue is concerned. He said teachers have good cause for their "frustration" because the government hasn’t honored its financial obligations.
"While the court understands and commiserates with the plight of the (AFT’s) members," said Ross, "the court must uphold the laws of the territory."

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A motion by St. Croix teachers to block a Department of Education order docking them a day’s pay for staging job sickouts was denied by a Territorial Court judge Thursday afternoon.
Last week the St. Croix chapter of the American Federation of Teachers requested Judge Edgar Ross grant a preliminary injunction against Commissioner of Education Ruby Simmonds’ decision to dock the pay of teachers who participated in alternating sickouts at every school on St. Croix the last two weeks of September. Simmonds said the continuing sickouts violated the collective bargaining agreement of 1991.
On Thursday, Ross denied the AFT motion, although he noted that the 1991 agreement had promised teachers salary increases. He also noted the Legislature’s failure to appropriate funding for the raises, and that teachers have "consistently complained" of the government’s failure to provide the raises.
The government argued, however, that the AFT should have sought a remedy through the Department of Education and the Public Employees Relations Board’s grievance process before filing in court.
Ross agreed, saying that a resolution by administrative channels was plausible.
He also said that as commissioner, Simmonds had the right to impose leave without pay as a disciplinary action.
Although denying the AFT’s motion, Ross said he sympathized with the teachers as far as the back-pay issue is concerned. He said teachers have good cause for their "frustration" because the government hasn’t honored its financial obligations.
"While the court understands and commiserates with the plight of the (AFT’s) members," said Ross, "the court must uphold the laws of the territory."