Nov. 7, 2002 – Seafarers International Union leaders in the midst of negotiating a new agreement for government workers in four agencies called their constituency together this week to update them on the status of negotiations.
The union officials met with members on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John on the eve of the Tuesday elections. The collective bargaining agreement under discussion covers Health, Human Services and Public Works Department personnel along with employees of the territory's two hospitals and Education Department librarians, custodians, cafeteria workers and school crossing guards.
Emmit Petersen, a union field representative at the St. John meeting, held at Julius E. Sprauve School, said that because of an agreement with the V.I. government, he could not comment on what that session covered. "We cannot engage in any conversation with the press," he said.
A union member who spoke on condition of anonymity said much of the discussion during the hour and a half meeting centered on wage issues.
The contract talks have been going on for about a month. According to one union member, it has been nearly five years since the last Seafarers agreement brought wage increases to the bargaining unit.
The administration's Office of Collective Bargaining is in the midst of negotiations with not only the Seafarers but a number of other unions representing different groups of government employees.
There are 30 collective bargaining agreements covering government workers. Karen Andrews, chief negotiator, has not responded to repeated queries from the Source concerning the terms of newly negotiated and ratified contracts and how many other agreements have yet to be reached.
In addition to payroll expenditures covered in the Fiscal Year 2003 budget, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has asked the Legislature to appropriate $6.1 million to cover pay raises for firefighters, their supervisors, and government workers in 15 departments and agencies who are covered by a United Steelworkers of America-Master contract.
When he submitted his proposed executive branch budget last May, Turnbull told the Legislature that $25 million to $30 million would be needed to cover wages increases to workers covered by 18 expired contracts.

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