The St. Croix and St. Thomas – St. John Federation of Teachers, the territory’s two public school teachers unions, ratified a two-year contract with the V.I. government Friday, two weeks after the prior contract expired.
Contract negotiations broke down for a little while in September after a dispute over whether union officials ordered members to walk off the job and picket. Union members were also unhappy over Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s action to raise the pay of the lowest paid teachers without raising the pay of those above them. Some teachers apparently resented seeing newly hired teachers at similar pay levels as teachers with years of experience.
According to Government House, the new agreement addresses the pay schedule for Department of Education public-school teachers based on length of time served and years of experience.
The contract has been forwarded to Government House for Governor Mapp’s signature.The agreement reportedly includes raises bringing teachers closer to pay levels promised by years of service pay adjustments that had been withheld by the V. I. Government. Many school employees are behind up to nine years on the salary schedule, according to Government House.
“The agreement members ratified moves them a little closer to where they should be,” Rosa Soto-Thomas, chief union negotiator and president of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers, said in a statement from Government House.
Chief Labor Negotiator Attorney Natalie Tang-How said she was happy with the outcome.
“It’s been a long and challenging process, but perseverance prevailed and I’m happy for all of the AFT members, to include teachers, support staff and paraprofessionals,” she said. “They stayed the course and the government has done its part to preserve the integrity of the process, while ensuring higher wages and a better quality of life for the people.”
Tang-How also congratulated AFT presidents Rosa Soto-Thomas and Carol Callwood for their efforts.
Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum said the contract “would give an added boost of morale to our teachers. We still have a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction.”