Union, KSCU reach agreement

Kootenay Savings Credit Union announced Tuesday that it has reached a deal with its unionized employees following collective agreement bargaining.

Both the credit union and the United Steelworkers Locals 9705 and 1-405 unanimously recommended acceptance of the package deal about three weeks ago.

However, it awaited a response from its 150 unionized employees at branches in Warfield, Trail, Waneta, Fruitvale, Salmo, South Slocan, Castlegar, Kaslo and Kimberley.

Voting finished Monday, with 95 per cent of employees in favour of the renewal of the old contract, which expired on Dec. 31.

But an arbitrator is still examining whether the company is responsible for compensating members for 2010 in regards to the pension plan changes.

“This round of bargaining focused on compensation for changes made to the employees’ pension plan,” union president Chuck Macklon said in a news release. “We feel this agreement addresses that issue adequately and provides a stable work environment for the next five years.”

The deal includes wage increases in each year that average to 3.25 per cent over the next five years, plus improvements in some benefits, a retirement allowance and improved contract language. The employees will also receive a $500 signing bonus this year.

“We are all very pleased to have reached an agreement that is acceptable to both parties,” said Brent Tremblay, president and CEO of Kootenay Savings. “Throughout the negotiations, our employees remained committed to delivering on our service mission of  ‘improving each member’s financial life’.  With this long term agreement in place we can continue our focus on member and employee satisfaction.”

The union filed strike notice in the first week of February, allowing its members the right to walk off the job at any time over a period of 60 days.

This was after ninety-three per cent of union members voted in January to strike, with 82 per cent turning out to vote. In its 42-year history, the workers at Kootenay Savings have never gone on strike.

The main area of concern then was lack of a long-term plan to compensate union members for changes made to the pension plan last year, which include the retirement age raised to 62 from 60, increased employee contributions by 1.5 per cent and an increase in the early retirement penalty to six per cent per year, from three.