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District 2A v. Government of Virgin Islands

June 17, 1986

DISTRICT 2A, TRANSPORTATION TECHNICAL, WAREHOUSE, INDUSTRIAL & SERVICE EMPLOYEES UNION, AFFILIATED WITH DISTRICT 1, MARINE ENGINEERS BENEFICIAL ASSOCIATION - ASSOCIATED MARITIME OFFICERS, AFL-CIO, APPELLANT,
v.
GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS



On Appeal from the District Court of the Virgin Islands, Division of St. Thomas, D.C. Civil No. 85-303.

Author: Hunter

HUNTER, Circuit Judge:

1. District 2A, Transportation, Technical, Warehouse, Industrial and Service Employees Union ("District 2A" or "Union") appeals the district court's grant of the Government of the Virgin Islands' motion for summary judgment. Jurisdiction before the District Court of the Virgin Islands was based on V.I. Code Ann. tit. 24, § 383(a) (Supp. 1985) and V.I. Code Ann. tit. 4, § 32 (Supp. 1985). We have appellate jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291, 1294 (1982).

I.

2. District 2A is the certified collective bargaining agent for supervisors employed by the Virgin Islands government. The Union and the government are parties to a collective bargaining agreement effective October 1, 1980, which is still in force by the parties' stipulation. According to the agreement's terms, the parties were to enter salary negotiations for fiscal year 1983, which began on October 1, 1982. Unable to negotiate a wage agreement, the parties voluntarily submitted the matter to binding interest arbitration*fn1 pursuant to the impasse arbitration procedures contained in the Public Employee Labor Relations Act ("Act"), V.I. Code Ann. tit. 24, §§ 361-383 (Supp. 1985).*fn2

A three member arbitration panel considered the issue in October 1984. Because of the late date of the arbitration, the parties also presented the issue of supervisors' salaries for fiscal year 1984. On February 1, 1985, the panel issued an award. For fiscal year 1983, the award set a three and one-half percent salary increase and a one-step pay scale advancement. The award stated that the new salaries should be implemented within sixty days, and that the government should pay the amount representing the retroactive increase in four installments. For fiscal year 1984, the panel awarded a lump-sum payment of one thousand dollars for each Union member.

The government was unable to fulfill the terms of the award immediately. On September 19, 1985, the Governor of the Virgin Islands introduced a bill that would authorize him to negotiate a thirty-five million dollar loan, part of which would be used to satisfy outstanding arbitration awards against the government. The Legislature did not enact the bill and the government has not satisfied the award to date.

On August 22, 1985, District 2A filed a motion to enforce the award in the District Court of the Virgin Islands. The Union filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prevent the government from refusing to comply with the award on August 28. Some time passed without the government's response; when it became evident that the Virgin Islands Legislature was not going to enact legislation empowering the Governor to enter into a loan agreement, the Union moved for summary judgment. On December 19, 1985, the government filed an answer and a motion for summary judgment in district court. The government argued below, as it does here, that it was entitled to judgment because the Legislature had failed to appropriate funds to honor the award as required by the Public Employee Labor Relations Act. In an Order dated January 30, 1986, the district court accepted the government's interpretation of the Act and granted its motion for summary judgment.

Sometime after the commencement of District 2A's suit, Amicus United Industrial Workers ("UIW") filed a complaint in the District Court of the Virgin Islands seeking enforcement of a similar arbitral award. The government in that action informed the court of its intention to rely on the defense it raised in District 2A's suit and that District 2A had appealed the January 30 Order to this court. The parties have agreed to a stay pending the disposition of the instant appeal.

II.

This appeal presents us with a question of statutory construction. As such, our review is plenary. See Chrysler Credit Corporation v. First National Bank and Trust Company of Washington, 746 F.2d 200, 202 (3d Cir. 1984). We must define the relationship between two sections of the Virgin Islands Public Employee Labor Relations Act.

The first, § 374, addresses the right of collective bargaining representatives to negotiate terms of employment with the government, and outlines the scope of the matters that may be negotiated and the limitations on the public employees' collective bargaining rights. In particular, this section reserves the Virgin Islands Legislature's power to approve labor agreements under certain circumstances:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, no contract or other instrument of agreement between an exclusive representative and a public employer which contract or instrument requires the appropriation of funds by the Legislature shall be binding as to the ...


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