Home News Local news DeJongh Invites Teachers Union Leaders for Talks

DeJongh Invites Teachers Union Leaders for Talks

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Feb. 23, 2008 — Gov. John de Jongh Jr. invited the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers Union Locals 1825 and 1826 Friday to meet with him to discuss the status of negotiations on the new contract for teachers, school nurses, school psychologists and other professionals.
"I have personally invited the union leaders to meet with me, the Chief Labor Negotiator and the Acting Commissioner of Education so we can find the best way forward to a new contract," deJongh said in the government's statement. "We all share the same priority and goal, a goal I am confident we can meet."
Over the past several months, negotiations between the unions and the government have grown acrimonious. After weeks of sick-outs and other labor actions, the government sought and got a temporary restraining order against the unions. (See: "Judge Bars St. Croix Teachers from Disrupting Classes, Delaying Grades.")
Thursday afternoon, chief labor negotiator Jessica Gallivant issued a statement declaring an impasse in negotiations with the teachers. Late Friday afternoon, Government House issued its invitation.
St. Croix teachers union president Tyrone Molyneux and Gallivan both say they are not reaching agreement on the "non-economic" parts of the contract. But they disagree on whether that means there is an impasse and whether that means they cannot negotiate salaries, or the "economic" parts of the contract.
In her declaration of impasse, Gallivan says the government "would like to move forward to the financial portion of the negotiations," but "we must first conclude the non-economic portion.” She said concluding the non-economic part of the agreement required agreement, withdrawal of the conflicting position or a declaration of impasse.
"“You (AFT) have consistently refused to declare an impasse on any issue, even those we have repeatedly discussed and debated,” Gallivant stated.
She characterized the non-economic contract issues as reform.
“Contract negotiations cannot be about money alone," she said." In this instance, the government and the union must also be concerned about instruction and educational reform.”
Molyneux said late Friday he saw no reason not to tackle economic matters and then go back to the non-economic issues.
"We have never engaged in this type of negotiation where you must declare an impasse before moving on to negotiate the economic part of your contract," he said. "I think it is very premature to declare an impasse. I could understand if this procedure were established in the beginning. But it has never been a rule that we must do this to get to economic proposals. This is an obstacle the administration has put in front of us."
Molyneux said the union had made contact with deJongh and they were happy the governor was going to sit down with all the parties.
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