UPDATE: CEO and President Brent Tremblay responds to Trail Times story, “Dispute forces closure of some KSCU branches”
After a one-day lockout by the employer on Friday, union members at Kootenay Savings announced they would not be returning to work until a deal is reached.
Jeff Bromley spoke on behalf of the United Steelworkers members, saying the employer declared the collective agreement null and void and employees did not know what terms they would be returning to after the lockout.
In response to the story, “Dispute forces closure of some KSCU branches,”on Oct. 31, CEO and President Brent Tremblay reached out to the Trail Times the following day with a statement.
“I would like to set the record straight that Kootenay Savings has not changed the terms and conditions of employment existing under the expired collective agreement,” Tremblay stated. “USW Bargaining Committee has stated “The employer could reduce wages or benefits or strip employees’ right to the grievance procedure, among many, many other possibilities that we may not anticipate. They could do this at any time without an agreement in place. We would have no recourse but to strike.”
While the Credit Union could be in the position do this, we have not changed any clauses in our agreement, Tremblay said.
“As a business we are in the difficult position of needing to take steps beyond what we ever thought necessary to protect the sustainability of the organization. However, this should in no way be interpreted as a change to how we value our employees,” he added.
“Providing excellent member service remains our priority. To this end, we are grateful for the patience and continued loyalty of members, and acknowledge this is a difficult time for everyone.”
Fruitvale, Salmo and Kaslo branches of Kootenay Savings Credit Union (KSCU) will remain closed for the duration of the labour dispute.
Trail, Castlegar and Kimberley are open with reduced hours Monday to Friday, and South Slocan is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday with reduced hours.
Customers are reminded automated tellers (ATMs) are up and running as the impasse enters a second week.
After reports of Kootenay Savings cash machines running out of money and debit card problems over the weekend, the Trail Times reached out to the credit union for clarification on its operations during the ongoing strike.
”All of our ATMs are being serviced regularly with cash,” confirmed Nancy Crockett, vice president of sales and member experience. “Our reports indicate we did not run out of cash in any location. However, we will continue to monitor usage and ensure our members can access cash at our ATMs.”
Additionally, any members experiencing connectivity issues or service disruption with their cards are encouraged to contact KSCU via its website, kscu.com, or by phone at 1.800.665.5728.
KSCU maintains that accounts will not be affected throughout the strike and clarified that non-union branches in Nakusp, New Denver, Invermere and Radium Hot Springs are unaffected and will be open during regular business hours.
Unionized employees were locked out Friday, and in response, announced they would not return to work until a deal is reached.
“The USW Bargaining Committee does not take the eventuality of job action following the employer locking out our members lightly,” USW spokesperson Jeff Bromley stated. “The employer has declared the collective agreement null and void. The union and our members do not know what terms of employment we would be under if we returned to work following the employer’s lockout,” he added. “The employer could reduce wages or benefits or strip employees right to the grievance procedure, among many, many other possibilities that we may not anticipate. They could do this at any time without an agreement in place. We would have no recourse but to strike.
“That is why the job action will continue until a freely negotiated collective agreement is agreed-to.”
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 month, but the union rejected the company’s offer put forward on Oct. 24. Then on Oct. 25, USW members commenced work-to-rule and banned overtime.
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