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FEDS THREATEN TAKEOVER OF LOCAL OSHA PROGRAM

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With the federal government threatening to take over the V.I. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration program, the governor Friday called for a special session of the Senate to find funding.
Gov. Charles Turnbull told Senate President Vargrave Richards that the federal OSHA program’s regional administrator is in the territory and is "strongly advocating" the removal of the local program from the V.I. government.
But a "far greater concern is the fact that if we allow a federal takeover of the OSHA program, it opens the door to other takeovers by the federal government," Turnbull said.
"If (Region II Administrator) Patricia Clark is successful, employees seeking to file complaints regarding health and safety violations in the workplace will be required to seek off-island representatives," Turnbull said. "Additionally, the employees working within the OSHA program may face termination."
Turnbull called for the Senate to consider two amendments to two acts that, if approved, would appropriate almost $750,000 for the local OSHA program from the Caribbean Basin Initiative Fund for fiscal year 2000.
"These appropriations are necessary because . . . the local government has been unable to hire staff, provide mandatory training and purchase protective and field equipment for compliance personnel because of its fiscal crisis," Turnbull wrote to Richards.
The local OSHA program is funded by a 50-50 grant, meaning the V.I. government must match what the federal government provides. Turnbull said that for the last eight fiscal quarters, the V.I. government hasn’t been able to meet the match.

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