Upset with the looming expiration of their labor contract and the government’s recent cancellation of several negotiating sessions, St. Croix Federation of Teachers members will meet 4 p.m. Wednesday at St. Croix Educational Complex to consider what to do next, according to union officials.
Members feel the government is not negotiating in good faith because government officials scheduled meetings late in the process, then cancelled them at the last minute, according to James Howell, president of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers.
Howell added that meetings between the union and the government were set this week for Wednesday and Friday, but that government officials last Friday cancelled the meetings “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
“We want to put the community on notice that the contract has expired and the government has not made any overtures to the union,” Howell said.
As of 7:30 p.m. Monday, the Office of Collective Bargaining and its head, Chief Negotiator Valdemar Hill, had not responded to messages left earlier in the day requesting comment.
In July, Hill testified to the Legislature that 15 government labor contracts were expired, while 15 remained in force, including those for teachers and public school paraprofessionals.
While over on St. Thomas, teachers recently held a work stoppage in apparent violation of their labor contract, there have been no actions to date on St. Croix.
"Our contract does not allow us to go on strike, but it will expire Sept. 30," said Howell on Monday. "Everything is open for discussion once the contract expires," he said.
Asked if that meant the union was contemplating a strike, Howell said "it is possible," but he could not predict how members would vote.