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PERB Calls for Mediation in Teacher Contract Dispute

Aug. 4, 2008 — The Public Employee Relations Board declared an impasse Monday and ordered mediation for contract negotiations between the territory's teachers' unions and the V.I. government.
PERB assigned Carlos Tatte of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C., to mediate. The union and the government are to begin mediation "as soon as is practicable," and if no agreement can be reached in two weeks time, the remaining issues will go to arbitration.
The Office of Collective Bargaining filed the petition to declare an impasse on Wednesday and an informal conference with PERB was held Friday.
"The informal conference exposed a strained relationship between the parties," the order from PERB reads.
The territory's two chapters of the American Federation of Teachers do not want an impasse declared.
"We thought it was premature for the chief negotiator to petition for an impasse," St. Croix AFT president Tyron Molyneux said Monday. "From the time the members rejected the government offer, the parties have not reconvened to ascertain if there could be some resolution to the offer made by the administration.
"This is the first time in my history of negotiation that something like this has happened. It is unorthodox. It is new."
Both sides accuse one another of bargaining in bad faith.
"The AFT leadership has repeatedly altered its demands in a manner that would not suggest it is ready to enter into a workable agreement," Gallivan said in a recent press release. "You cannot shift the bar each time concessions are made. This is not the way to achieve progress.”
Molyneux sees it differently.
"I think the chief negotiator was negotiating in bad faith," he said. "From the day the membership rejected the government's offer we kept the chief negotiator informed and there was no good faith effort to address the areas rejected. I think it is an attempt to strong-arm the union into taking what is offered."
Molyneux said terms and conditions tied to the $20.8 million salary contract were not in the best interest of union members, and mediation would not change the union position.
Teacher contract negotiations took a turn for the worse in early June when the two unions both voted to reject the government's offer. (See "Teachers Turn Down Contract Offer .")
According to the PERB order, the remaining issues in dispute are:
– appropriate salaries;
– the length of the successor bargaining agreement;
– the number of teaching days, instructional hours and professional days;
– the requirement that teachers be certified by the v.i. board of education and be in compliance with the federal no child left behind act;
– credit for outside teaching experience;
– credit for outside nursing experience;
– an offer of a monetary bonus in lieu of salary increases in 2008.
The PERB order said the number of teaching days and the question of bonuses in lieu of raises are not negotiable to the unions. Molyneux confirmed this.
"They want to extend the school year without paying the staff for working the days," he said. "That's one issue. And they are asking us to forego salary increases for a year in exchange for a minimum bonus of $1,700. … We don't see any change in our position on these."
Asked what effect the ongoing dispute might have upon the beginning of school, Molyneux was vague.
"I've always maintained there are uncertainties in negotiations," he said. "I always say to the members, prepare, save your money like for a hurricane."
Asked if that meant a strike was likely, Molyneux was again ambiguous, but said he would be representing the St. Croix AFT at mediation.
"I can't give a date when mediation will start," he said. "But we will decide collectively as to our role in the mediation process. We have not come to any decision so far."
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Aug. 4, 2008 -- The Public Employee Relations Board declared an impasse Monday and ordered mediation for contract negotiations between the territory's teachers' unions and the V.I. government.
PERB assigned Carlos Tatte of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C., to mediate. The union and the government are to begin mediation "as soon as is practicable," and if no agreement can be reached in two weeks time, the remaining issues will go to arbitration.
The Office of Collective Bargaining filed the petition to declare an impasse on Wednesday and an informal conference with PERB was held Friday.
"The informal conference exposed a strained relationship between the parties," the order from PERB reads.
The territory's two chapters of the American Federation of Teachers do not want an impasse declared.
"We thought it was premature for the chief negotiator to petition for an impasse," St. Croix AFT president Tyron Molyneux said Monday. "From the time the members rejected the government offer, the parties have not reconvened to ascertain if there could be some resolution to the offer made by the administration.
"This is the first time in my history of negotiation that something like this has happened. It is unorthodox. It is new."
Both sides accuse one another of bargaining in bad faith.
"The AFT leadership has repeatedly altered its demands in a manner that would not suggest it is ready to enter into a workable agreement," Gallivan said in a recent press release. "You cannot shift the bar each time concessions are made. This is not the way to achieve progress.”
Molyneux sees it differently.
"I think the chief negotiator was negotiating in bad faith," he said. "From the day the membership rejected the government's offer we kept the chief negotiator informed and there was no good faith effort to address the areas rejected. I think it is an attempt to strong-arm the union into taking what is offered."
Molyneux said terms and conditions tied to the $20.8 million salary contract were not in the best interest of union members, and mediation would not change the union position.
Teacher contract negotiations took a turn for the worse in early June when the two unions both voted to reject the government's offer. (See "Teachers Turn Down Contract Offer .")
According to the PERB order, the remaining issues in dispute are:
- appropriate salaries;
- the length of the successor bargaining agreement;
- the number of teaching days, instructional hours and professional days;
- the requirement that teachers be certified by the v.i. board of education and be in compliance with the federal no child left behind act;
- credit for outside teaching experience;
- credit for outside nursing experience;
- an offer of a monetary bonus in lieu of salary increases in 2008.
The PERB order said the number of teaching days and the question of bonuses in lieu of raises are not negotiable to the unions. Molyneux confirmed this.
"They want to extend the school year without paying the staff for working the days," he said. "That's one issue. And they are asking us to forego salary increases for a year in exchange for a minimum bonus of $1,700. ... We don't see any change in our position on these."
Asked what effect the ongoing dispute might have upon the beginning of school, Molyneux was vague.
"I've always maintained there are uncertainties in negotiations," he said. "I always say to the members, prepare, save your money like for a hurricane."
Asked if that meant a strike was likely, Molyneux was again ambiguous, but said he would be representing the St. Croix AFT at mediation.
"I can't give a date when mediation will start," he said. "But we will decide collectively as to our role in the mediation process. We have not come to any decision so far."
Back Talk


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.