76.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, March 23, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesLabor Committee Hears Views on Hastening PERB Process

Labor Committee Hears Views on Hastening PERB Process

Sept. 9, 2008 — The Public Employee Relations Board needs to speed up the time it takes to resolve labor disputes, union, PERB and Division of Personnel officials all told the Labor Committee Monday. While they agree on the problem, each group has their own suggestions as to what would help.
PERB Executive Director Zandra Petersen outlined the process by which PERB hears employee grievances. They are divided into: time sensitive decisions on demotions, terminations and promotions; and less time sensitive questions, such as union certification and eligibility for union membership.
Time sensitive decisions have to be completed within 60 days of the complaint, Petersen said, or the employee is automatically returned to the position and pay the worker held prior to the dispute. There is a backlog of cases going back a number of years, resulting in some workers waiting a very long time for resolution.
"We are looking at changes that can be made to speed up resolution," Petersen said. "First, placing time limits on when a party may use the grievance procedure. … We must look at internal procedures as well."
Other ideas from PERB itself include adding more training officers who are to train other workers to help in mediation, putting time limits on how long parties can speak in mediation meetings, only allowing parties to introduce new facts, not reargue their cases on appeal and establishing benchmarks to judge the rate of progress toward complaint resolution, Petersen said.
Director of Personnel Kenneth Hermon Jr. suggested beefing up PERB resources and splitting some of the work with Personnel.
"My recommendation would be to create an employee relations unit within Personnel to deal with disputes at the front end, before they become serious," Hermon said. "That would undoubtedly clear PERB of a large part of its caseload. It will not replicate either PERB or the Office of Collective Bargaining. On the contrary it would offer positive advice."
Matters or disputes that cannot be resolved with a simple conference or go beyond the mandate of this unit would be referred to PERB, he said.
"I strongly believe … the establishment of an employee relations unit will substantially reduce PERB's caseload and improve employee-management relations," he said. PERB itself needs more resources too, he said.
Police and firefighter union representatives want more resources at PERB along with a change in focus.
"We don’t have a problem with PERB itself," said Andre Dorsey of the firefighter's union for St. Thomas-St. John district. "But class three issues are often an issue with our situation." Class three government employees, like police and firefighters, are not allowed to strike or have any work stoppages, Dorsey explained. Because the unions cannot strike, the grievance procedure takes on added urgency to these workers. Dorsey would like to see PERB staff trained in issues affecting class three employees.
"Some grievances we might bring wouldn't even become a grievance if we could just sit down as men and women and discuss it before it gets too far along," Dorsey said. "There is a problem with a lack of individuals who understand what we do. I'm not saying we need a person in the PERB office that understands class three issues, but I think it is one of the areas that is lacking."
Police Lt. Joseph A. Gumbs, president of the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union for St. Thomas and St. John, agreed with Dorsey on many of these issues, saying PERB should have more staff, more power, hold more hearings and focus more on the issues affecting workers who are not allowed to strike.
"Because we can't strike, we should have a fast track to address our concerns," Gumbs said.
Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville, the committee chairman, said his committee would draft legislation to try to address some of the concerns. It was an oversight hearing. No legislation was pending before the committee and no votes taken.
Present were: Figueroa-Serville, Sens. Liston A. Davis, Celestino White, Louis Patrick Hill, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Basil Ottley Jr. Sen. Ronald Russell was absent.
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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.