Government House Says PBA, Not Government, Delayed Police Contract

V.I. Chief Negotiator Natalie Nelson Tang How. (File photo)
V.I. Chief Negotiator Natalie Nelson Tang How. (File photo)

Government House released a statement Wednesday asserting recent criticism by the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association is “politics,” and contract delays are the fault of the PBA. The statement does not mention the PBA’s principal stated concern; the way pay raises for entry-level officers bypassed contract negotiations.

Monday night the St. Croix BPA issued a statement saying PBA had “no confidence” in Gov. Kenneth Mapp and his administration. It says the St. Croix PBA members demand a meeting with the governor by Nov. 1 “to address the administration’s unlawful pay increases to entry level officers only, continuous and unacceptable disrespect by its chief negotiator, and the conditions of employment.”

It also accuses the administration of using “stall tactics” to avoid negotiating a new contract before the election.

Mapp, who is running for reelection as governor, has increased pay for an array of V.I. government employees with great fanfare several times this year, including a very recent 3 percent raise for about 1,200 government workers he made retroactive to ensure workers saw increases in their final pre-election paycheck. Several unions have raised objections to bypassing the contract process and giving raises specifically to entry-level employees without raising pay for senior members.

The Government House statement focuses on delays in contract negotiations. “My office is very successfully working with the territory’s collective bargaining units, but the PBA’s counsel/chief negotiator was unavailable for most of October and then tried to confirm a date at the last minute, which was no longer available following her absence out of the country for almost a month,” Chief Labor Negotiator Natalie Nelson Tang How said in the statement. Government House also touts the pay raises, along with increased police recruit training, increased hiring and other actions the government asserts are supportive of police.

“Senior officers will continue to have the opportunity to negotiate for increases just like the teachers and nurses did,” Tang How said. “But it’s a process and we need the unions to cooperate in good faith at the table in order to complete the process.”