The labour dispute at Kootenay Savings Credit Union (KSCU) is heating up with the possibility of work disruption on Friday.
After the union issued a 72-hour strike notice in Trail on Monday, the employer countered with a lockout notice the following morning. The official notices put both parties in a legal work stoppage position by 8 a.m. Friday.
The news came from members of the United Steelworkers Local 9705 (Trail) and Local 1-405 in Cranbrook, representing 110 employees at KSCU branches and offices in Trail, Fruitvale, Salmo, Castlegar, South Slocan, Kaslo and Kimberley.
“The 72-hour notice was served last night (Monday) but is not in effect until this morning at 8 a.m. when the Labour Board receives it and they’re in the office to receive it,” Jeff Bromley from USW Local 1-405 told the Trail Times.
Bromley says a full day of mediation was unsuccessful and talks broke off Monday night.
The two parties have been at odds all year, the key sticking points revolve around pension protection and no wage increase for two years.
No job action has been taken to date, but union members have twice voted in favour of strike, once in June and again two months later.
“The employer continued to refuse to remove their concession that eliminates the pension protection language that was bargained into the agreement almost 30 years ago,” said Dean Lott from USW Local 9705. “The employer continues not to come to the table with a fair wage increase and insisting on the pension concession. Our membership, with a strike mandate of 96.3 per cent, is not going to waiver on this issue. The pension protection language is the most important issue on the table and it has to continue to be in the collective agreement.”
Bromley says union members plan on showing up for work Friday morning, even though they are in a legal strike position.
“The employer could lock us out by then,” he added.
KSCU President and CEO Brent Tremblay issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, expressing disappointment that four days of planned mediation abruptly came to an end.
“We are very disappointed that the union ask the mediator (Dave Schaub) to book out after only a half day of talks,” Tremblay said. “While the parties have been successful in working through a number of improvements to the collective agreement during this set of negotiations, we have not been successful in getting the union’s assistance to address two critical needs regarding pension language and wages.”
Tremblay refers to the pension issue, noting the plan is controlled by a board of trustees who make modifications to it from time to time.
“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.”
He maintains the language creates the risk of “untenable” financial burden to the 38,000 members of the credit union as well as 200 non-union employees.
“We are fully committed to successfully concluding a new collective agreement, and remain ready and willing to meet with the union at any time.”