July 5, 2005 – Want to make a V.I. union firefighter mad? Tell him the governor and his cabinet are thinking about giving themselves another raise.
Daryl George, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2125, has heard "rumblings" about another raise for Gov. Charles W. Turnbull and his cabinet, and he is mad. He said there are "strong indications" it will happen soon.
James O'Bryan, the governor's spokesman, said that the talk about pay raises is "pure speculation." He said, "The governor has made no such announcement."
The "rumblings" are part of the motivation for what George called "an aggressive campaign on the mainland" to get the raises promised to firefighters over the years but never implemented. George said V.I. firefighters have gone 10 years without a real raise.
Part of the campaign is a letter that went out from Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters. His letter went to Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Cal., the chairman of the House Committee on Resources, and to Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee. It was copied to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
O'Bryan said he had not seen the letter, but added that money has been identified for the firefighters' raises in the budget that Turnbull sent to the Legislature in May. He explained that the raises would go into effect Oct. 1 if the Legislature passed the budget. He was not sure about any retroactive pay.
The letter sent to the congressmen June 15 focuses on an agreement signed in October 2002 by the governor and the union giving the firefighters raises.
The letter says the Legislature identified funding for these raises in December of 2002, but the governor had not provided the raises.
George said Turnbull continues to block raises to the firefighters because "it is his way of punishing us for being outspoken and critical of commissioners' raises."
O'Bryan said that claim was "pure fantasy. The money just was not there."
George said the letter was sent "to show the injustice with which the firefighters in the Virgin Islands have been treated."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.