By Sheri Regnier
With files from Chelsea Novak
Kootenay Savings Credit Union’s unionized employees will not return to work until a deal is reached.
Members of United Steelworkers Local 9705 stood their ground in a picket line outside Kootenay Savings Credit Union (KSCU) in Castlegar on Friday.
“Because they have locked us out, the Labour Code states that the contract is null and void, and they have reserved the right to changes the terms and conditions on the contract, so we won’t be returning until we have a contract in place,” explained Brenda Bortolussi, grievance chair for Unitest Steelworkers (USW) Local 9705 and member of the bargaining committee.
“We are locked out by the employer,” USW spokesperson Jeff Bromley told the Trail Times early Friday. “The employer has threatened to change the terms and conditions of employment and our members won’t know what the terms of employment are. As such we won’t be returning until a deal is reached.”
Earlier this week, KSCU announced a Friday lockout of employees at unionized branches in Castlegar, Trail, Fruitvale, Salmo, South Slocan, Kaslo and Kimberley.
In that Wednesday release, the credit union stated employees were expected to return to their next scheduled shift following the one-day lockout.
But as of Friday morning, the USW says a return to work will not happen.
“The employer has stated that the lockout is a one-day lockout and that unionized staff will be expected to return to work, either Saturday for branches that are open Saturdays, or Monday morning for those branches that are Monday to Friday,” the union states. “The employer has also stated that the terms and conditions of the collective agreement have come to an end and with that, the unionized staff of KSCU will not be returning to work until a collective agreement has been freely negotiated between the two parties.
“The employer has locked out their employees and they will stay locked out until a collective agreement is settled.”
Until then Castlegar residence can expect to see KSCU unionized employees picketing outside the local branch. “Support us. We’re here, we’re locked out,” said Bortulussi. “We wanted to be in there to help the membership and this is where they put us.”
Negotiations between the two parties have been dragging on all year — the central discourse being pension protection and lack of a wage increase for two years.
Talks continued last week, but the union rejected the company’s last offer put forward on Oct. 24. Then on Oct. 25, the union commenced work-to-rule and banned overtime.
“We feel our only recourse at this point is to initiate a one‐day lockout to persuade the union to return to negotiate a fair collective agreement, and to help us address our critical issues while minimizing the impact to our employees and members.”
Members of KSCU were advised to conduct in-person banking on Thursday and issued a reminder that electronic services including ATMs will remain available and fully operational.
KSCU withheld comment while a mediator was involved. When the latest round of mediation broke down last week, Brent Tremblay, KSCU president and CEO, issued his first statement.
In it, he addressed the pension issue and noted the plan is unique in that it is controlled by a board of trustees.
“While a Defined Benefit Pension Plan is costly to maintain, we are fully prepared to continue our participation,” said Tremblay. “The problem is that our current pension language holds us to unlimited financial liability for any changes that the trustees may make to the plan. This is a highly unusual requirement, and no other credit union in the B.C. plan is required to do so, including other credit unions in the plan who have employees represented by the Steelworkers.”
The United Steelworkers Local 9705 (Trail) and Local 1-405 in Cranbrook, represent 110 employees at the seven KSCU locations.