Talks break off between Steelworkers and Kootenay Savings

Update: Union members begin work to rule job action

Despite a last minute return to the table, negotiators for Steelworkers Locals 1-405 & 9705 and Kootenay Savings Credit Union have been unable to come to an agreement and the Steelworkers announced via press release Tuesday morning that talks had broken off.

Later in the day, Kootenays Savings issued a release saying that the Union had rejected the credit union’s final offer.

The two sides bargained Thursday, Friday and Monday but were not able to reach agreement on the outstanding issues, the releases said.

“Kootenay Savings’ Board of Directors and Senior Management Team stand firmly behind the efforts of its Negotiating Team,” stated 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.”

As of now, the Union will be proceeding with a Work to Rule campaign that it says could ultimately lead to a work stoppage.

However, Kootenays Savings is in a position to legally lock employees out, although at press time, there was no indication from the credit union a lockout was imminent.

“We remain committed to successfully concluding a new collective agreement, and are ready and willing to meet with the Union at any time,” the KSCU press release reads. “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.

“Our electronic services, online, phone and mobile banking, along with our ATMs, remain available and fully operational throughout this time. Please visit kscu.com for more information. We thank our members for their patience and continued loyalty.”

The main sticking point is pension language.

Last week, Kootenay Savings President and CEO Brent Tremblay said that the current pension language creates the risk of a potentially untenable financial burden to the credit union.

“That plan is controlled by a Board of Trustees who make modifications to the plan from time to time to ensure it can continue to meet its obligations to plan members.”

“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,” said Tremblay in the latest press release. “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 plus plan members in the same pension plan, including those of the other Kootenay region credit union employees represented by the Steelworkers.”

“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 ifs, 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.”

Also outstanding are the issues of wages; working hours for the new Member Service Center; vacation allotment and scheduling along with improvements to the employee banking benefits provision.

“We certainly appreciate the Credit Union members’ patience during this process and any possible work stoppage,” said Lott.