Unionized staff at Kootenay Savings Credit Union were on the picket line Friday morning. Update to come shortly.

Dispute forces closure of some KSCU branches

As the labour dispute enters Week 2, three KSCU branches remain closed for the duration.

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 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.

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