Home News Local news AFT STANDS TO GET NOTHING UNDER STEP PLAN

AFT STANDS TO GET NOTHING UNDER STEP PLAN

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June 12, 2001 – Although most government employees will likely receive a salary increase after Oct. 1 as a result of the governor's plan to use part of a projected $100 million tax-revenue windfall to fund step increases, members of the American Federation of Teachers may not see a dime.
"The AFT would not see any money from this," Tyrone Molyneaux, president of the St. Croix AFT, told the Source Tuesday morning. "The step increases do not even apply to teachers, because we just went through our mediation agreement."
Union members reluctantly approved the contract mediated after a three-week strike that shut down schools throughout the territory in October. The strike ended when Territorial Court Judge Brenda Hollar ordered teachers return to the classrooms Nov. 3. Many AFT members have expressed dissatisfaction with the contract, and AFT leaders still feel that the government should do more to pay teachers millions of dollars owed in retroactive pay.
Under the mediated contract, "We lost five years of our legal salary and step increases, and that equated to over $50 million," Molyneaux said. "It appears that the government is using this savings to pay other workers. It is only fair to share."
The union will lobby for $25 million in retroactive pay to be given to AFT members as a good-faith gesture toward teachers, Molyneaux said. It also will push to reopen talks with the Turnbull administration on the $24,800 starting salary for teachers and the difficulty in retaining teachers, he added.
"We are still losing teachers in droves, and some children could not get classes they needed to graduate because there were not enough teachers to offer those classes," he said.
Glen Smith, president of the St. Thomas-St. John AFT chapter, applauded Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's plan to bring government workers up to step but said the focus should be on the more than $300 million in retroactive pay owed to unionized employees.
"Government workers that are owed retroactive pay should be paid some of what is due to them," Smith said. "They are going to take $30 million to put the employees on step, so it is my argument that they should use some of the $70 million left to pay retroactive wages."
Karen Andrews, the administration's chief negotiator, said once all government employees are brought to step, the more than $300 million in retroactive pay owed will stop growing, since government employees will be at their negotiated salaries. She said the money does not exist to pay the AFT members the more than $100 million they are owed in retroactive pay.
"We are not dealing with retro, because the amount is close to $300 million if you were to add in this fiscal year," Andrews said. "While things are good, clearly we do not have $300 million to deal with that."
Molyneaux said he will contact the administration to push for reopening talks with the AFT after the union analyzes the governor's plan.

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