KSCU LABOUR DISPUTE – Workers reject offer

While unionized workers at Kootenay Savings Credit Union have rejected the company's offer

Kootenay Savings Credit Union is keen to go back to the bargaining table after union employees rejected the company’s final offer on a new collective agreement.

“We didn’t know what exactly to expect, we’re a little disappointed, actually,” said credit union president Brent Tremblay on Monday. “We’re attempting to contact the unions and hear what’s their intent.”

Results from the last-offer vote made by members who work at the credit union’s nine branches – Warfield, Trail, Waneta, Fruitvale, Salmo, South Slocan, Castlegar, Kaslo and Kimberley – were released Monday afternoon after ballots were tallied from a mid-month vote.

The B.C. Labour Relations Board pondered counting the results from the East Kootenay branch separately, as it is the only facility that operates under Steelworkers Local 1-405, but instead ruled that ballots will be calculated together as has been done historically.

Of the 150 members of Steelworkers Locals 9705 and 1-405, 89 per cent cast a vote on Feb. 15 with 81 per cent voting against the new collective agreement.

The main area of concern remains the lack of a long-term plan to compensate union members for changes made to the pension plan last year, which raised the retirement age to 62 from 60, increased employee contributions by 1.5 per cent and boosted the early retirement penalty to six per cent per year, from three.

When the company and union locals had no luck coming to an agreement, the labour relations board became involved in the last-offer vote.

This is the first time negotiations have led to such a vote, an unusual step to take, admits Tremblay.

“Based on some feedback we were getting, we felt it was important to give our employees the decision on whether or not the new collective agreement was acceptable,” he said.

Union president Chuck Macklon said the two parties are looking to set a date where they will meet and pick up negotiations where they left off.

“At this point in time, the ball is in their court,” said Macklon. “We want to give the company the opportunity to settle this without striking.”

But walking off the job still remains an option for the unionized employees after strike notice was filed at the beginning of February.

In its 42-year history, the workers at Kootenay Savings have never gone on strike.

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