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POLICE, GOVERNMENT NO CLOSER TO AGREEING

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Sept. 28, 2001 — While the Turnbull administration is willing to return to the negotiating table with the territory’s police officers, union officials have dismissed the idea.
Talks between the administration and the territory’s two police unions broke down last Friday after three days. The unions exercised their option of taking their case before a three-member arbitration panel instead of remaining at the table.
After that decision, the unions held a press conference earlier this week where they criticized Karen Andrews, the government’s chief negotiator, for being late and dismissing officers’ proposals out of hand.
In response, Andrews, Police Commissioner Franz Christian and Attorney General Iver Stridiron held their own press conference Thursday.
"Quite frankly, I think it was premature to end the negotiations when they did," Andrews said. "I believe there is still room for us to sit down and have discussions."
But Naomi Joseph, president of the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association, said that was unlikely. Returning to the table would just result in the two parties "stonewalling" each other, she said.
"If they wanted to negotiated with us, they would have come to try and meet us half way," Joseph said. "Negotiations are a series of compromises … We were told throughout the whole three days ‘no, no, no.’ I mean, you can’t go further than no."
Andrews said that union wage proposals were too costly, especially since the government still must negotiate 23 other contracts with government employees. The government’s initial wage increase offer translated to about $10,000 per officer. The union’s proposal was about $12,000 per officer, Andrews said. The unions represent about 325 officers.
Police officers have been working day-to-day since their last contract expired in September 1999. Their last salary step increase was in 1994.
"We must do things in the concept of what is affordable," Andrews said. "We will not be promising things going in that we cannot afford."

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