GFT withdraws support for double pay compromise bill

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GFT Representative Robert Koss is shown in this file photo during Monday's online news conference in Adelup, Koss withdrew the union's support for the Hero Act today.

The Guam Federation of Teachers has withdrawn its support for Bill 359-35, also known as the Heroes Act, saying the union was not informed that there are other proposed legislation that would not require a compromise on compensation for frontline workers.

Lyanne Mendiola, Public Health nurse and the spokesperson for the Community Health Center employees, says many frontliners were upset to see GFT stand by the compromise bill.

She stated: “Though we are thankful and appreciative of the Speaker’s intent on the Heroes Act, we feel that it doesn’t fully meet the terms of us frontliners. This bill is trying to replace a legal obligation for pay that the front liners already earned, with only a fraction of what is owed. ”

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On Tuesday, May 19, GFT representative Robert Koss withdrew the union’s support for the Heroes Act.

“Last Friday, GFT had no indication from any politician on this island that we had any support. We were moving forward with the lawsuit and preparing for a claim of wages. Then Friday, we were contacted by Senator Pedo Terlaje and Speaker Tina Muna Barnes who asked us to work together with compromise legislation,” Koss said.

The compromise legislation offers annual leave in lieu of double pay. Koss says the union didn’t see any harm in the legislation which at the time seemed like a fair deal and moved forward. It wasn’t until after the Governor’s online news conference yesterday that the union received pushback from its members.

“We got a lot of pushback from the membership today following the press conference on that and it appears the employees just simply want to be paid — and paid in a way other emergency periods have paid them — which is of course double pay,” Koss said.

Koss says it wasn’t until today that the union learned of three pieces of legislation that have come forward in an effort to try and resolve the pay issue. GFT is now standing by Senator Telena Nelson’s Bill 357-35.

“That essentially gives the employees what we believe they should have had in the first place. Okay, so yes we participated in a compromise but now it appears that a compromise is no longer necessary and that the original remedy that the employees sought is the way to go,” Koss said.

He added: “The Heroes bill again was a compromise and we were given certain parameters … limited funding things like this and trying to work towards a solution by people who wanted to solve the problem but we didn’t have adequate resources. Telena’s bill seems to suggest that there are adequate resources and kind of puts the whole thing on the table and says pay. And so, while we were willing to work towards a solution, of course, we would rather just get the whole thing and get paid.”

Koss said Nelson’s bill does just that, offering a longer period and easy terms to swallow. “If you work, you get paid, simple as that,” Koss said.

The Heroes Act is set to go before the legislature for action next week but Koss says there is no need for a compromise bill anymore and would rather see Nelson’s bill be acted upon as the union favors full payment of double pay over the alternatives.

As for the lawsuit, Koss says that they are holding off on filing the lawsuit against GovGuam but should the Heroes bill move forward, there could be a reshaping of a lawsuit to pursue full compensation for frontline GovGuam workers.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.