Talks break down: KSCU, union set for job action

Both the USW and KSCU were not able to reach agreement on the outstanding issues. Both sides are now preparing for job action.

  • Oct. 26, 2016 7:00 p.m.

Barry Coulter

Following a return to the table on Thursday and Friday last week, and Monday this week, both the United Steelworkers and Kootenay Savings Credit Union were not able to reach agreement on the outstanding issues. Both sides are now preparing for job action.

KSCU and the USW Locals 9705 and 1‐405 have been in negotiations for close to a year, have met many times to negotiate a renewed collective agreement, and have engaged the assistance of a mediator. On Friday morning, both parties were in legal strike position and legal lock-out position.

Talks continued last week, and the union rejected the company’s final offer put forward on Monday October 24, according to a press release from KSCU.

“Kootenay Savings’ Board of Directors and Senior Management Team stand firmly behind the efforts of its Negotiating Team” said Kootenay Saving CEO Brent Tremblay. “They have worked very hard to help address the Union’s demands and find mutually acceptable resolutions to our key issues within the parameters of the mandate they were given.”

According to the USW, still outstanding is the pension protection language.

“We thought we had a route to finding a resolution,” said Dean Lott, lead negotiator for the union. “Otherwise we have also offered to get back together should something happen and resolve the issue should any changes put KSCU in a financial untenable position.”

“The Credit Union Pension Plan is in good financial shape. The Trustees have made changes during the latest valuation (September 30, 2016) that has vastly improved the position of the plan. The employer is stuck on what may happen, what if’s, and no one has a crystal ball.”

“We’re proposing being partners in this if there’s a problem and KSCU’s future is affected. The employer doesn’t agree. They aren’t willing to cover the liability that the current language states they must.”

Tremblay said that “unlike other employers who may control decisions regarding their pension plans, Kootenay Savings belongs to a multiemployer plan where all decisions regarding the Plan are made by a Board of Trustees. Out of 25 credit unions participating in the BC Credit Union Defined Pension Plan, we are the only one with collective agreement language that holds us to unlimited financial liability for any changes the Trustees may make to plan benefits. These changes are out of our control, yet we are bound by their decisions.

In these negotiations, Kootenay Savings has proposed to fund a very lucrative supplemental retirement allowance on an annual basis to provide another layer of protection to employees, in the event of future changes if they were to occur. This fund is in addition to a rich retirement allowance that we provided to Defined Benefit Pension Plan participants in 2011. These additional benefits are unprecedented for credit unions, and no other credit union provides anything to the other 3000+ plan members in the same pension plan, including those of the other Kootenay region credit union employees represented by the Steelworkers.

The USW said that also outstanding is the issue of wages; working hours for the new Member Service Center; vacation allotment and scheduling along with improvements to the employee banking benefits provision.

The USW Locals in Trail and Cranbrook will be communicating with members at the branches as to the next steps. The Union will be proceeding with a work-to-rule campaign that could ultimately lead to a work stoppage. “We certainly appreciate the Credit Union members’ patience during this process and any possible work stoppage,” said Lott.

Tremblay said that KSCU remains committed to successfully concluding a new collective agreement, and are ready and willing to meet with the Union at any time.

“Unfortunately, over the last few days at some of our unionized locations, employees have begun activities that could be considered strike action. We are closely monitoring these activities in an effort to minimize disruption to our members.”

Tremblay said that electronic services, online, phone and mobile banking, along with ATMs, remain available and fully operational throughout this time. Visit kscu.com for more information