The Mapp administration has arrived at a salary increase contract agreement with the American Federation of Teachers Union, Rosa Soto-Thomas, president of the St. Croix AFT chapter, confirmed to The Consortium Monday.
The agreement, coming three weeks before the 2018 general election, is an important development for the Mapp administration. Mr. Mapp’s reelection was imperiled by educators who took to the streets last month in constant job actions as they pressured the administration to come to an agreement. In settling the issue, Mr. Mapp’s chances of winning the approval of educators will more than likely improve.
The agreement, reached on Friday, now needs to be signed by the governor, who has repeatedly committed to do so.
“I’m in a better place today, since Friday. The members ratified. I mean, it’s not all that we wanted, negotiations is a give-and-take; you’ve got to find this middle ground and compromise, and that’s what the teachers did. Two years we’ll be back at the table,” Mrs. Soto-Thomas said.
On the Mapp administration, Mrs. Soto-Thomas said the government worked with the union. “We countered what they gave us and they accepted it,” she said.
The the two-year contract includes three steps for educators for the first year and two steps the second year, the AFT St. Croix president said. “One step is iffy for the second year because we have to get verification that there’s money available, but I’ve lobbied the Senate to appropriate funds to pay the union, so that’s not a problem for this union.”
Mrs. Soto-Thomas explained that educators get an increase simply by moving from an old salary schedule to a new one that is separate from the step increases altogether. “It’s called a salary adjustment, Mrs. Soto-Thomas said. Once the educators are adjusted, every step increase has a salary adjustment. She reminded that roughly 28 percent of an educator’s salary goes to deductions. Nonetheless, she added, teachers were happy with the compromise.
“Members are taking home a sizable amount of money,” she said. “They’re happy. They said to me as their leader, ‘I’m not taking home anything less than a certain amount of money.'” The president refrained from revealing the new schedule.
Mrs. Soto-Thomas said a third of the members who attended the Friday meeting approved of the government’s offering. “The majority that was present voted overwhelmingly to accept the tentative agreement,” she said.
The territory’s chief negotiator, Attorney Natalie Tang-How, expressed satisfaction with the ratification, according to a Department of Education release.
“It’s been a long and challenging process, but perseverance prevailed and I’m happy for all of the AFT members, to include teachers, support staff and paraprofessionals,” she said. “They stayed the course and the government has done its part to preserve the integrity of the process, while ensuring higher wages and a better quality of life for the people.”