Will millions in Teck contract bonuses trickle down?

A look at how Teck Trail Operations signing bonus may affect local economy.

  • Jul. 25, 2012 1:00 p.m.

By Breanne Massey and Timothy Schafer

Times Staff

Several million dollars could be injected into the local economy after Teck Trail Operations handed out signing bonuses to over 1,300 employees two weeks ago, but the question people are asking is how much of that money will stick.

Six weeks ago United Steelworkers Workers Local 480 validated the first installment of a five-year collective agreement with its two unions, ensuring “business continuity” and “stability” in Trail with one of the best packages to date.

The first installment was paid out roughly two weeks ago, and Local 480 president Doug Jones said that union members have been receiving “very positive feedback” from the community.

“Teck is doing very well right now,” Jones said. “They’re financially in a good spot and there are a lot of good things happening around here. It’s obvious they’re going to stick around for awhile and I think this (deal) stabilizes everything.”

The agreement included the first ever five-year contract with a record breaking $10,000 signing bonus, prompting speculation about whether it could have a ripple effect in the local economy.

But it was unclear whether employees would invest or spend their earnings locally, Jones said.

“I would hate to guess how employees spend their money,” he explained. “But I would hope that if they are spending it, that it would go directly back into the community.”

While some local retailers have seen a slight spike in sales, they are reluctant to pinpoint exactly how much money Trail’s economy could see as a result of the recent deal.

“I think we’re still seeing the same amount of people each day, but I think more people are making decisions to buy,” said Shawn Brandt, the financial services manager at AM Ford Sales Ltd.

“Before it was people who were anticipating there was going to be a contract that was going to be signed, but now people are coming in and they’re not afraid of making a decision.”

Brandt chalked up the recent rise in automotive sales to “job security” and the recent “employee discount” sale in the dealership.

“Right now is a good time to buy because of employee pricing, but there’s also a lot of good deals to be had,” Brandt explained. “It just depends what people prefer.”

But former Trail city councillor Roger Catalano questioned how much of the money was staying in Trail. Now the owner of the region’s only trophy shop—Trail Awards and Promotions—Catalano said the city has lost 16 businesses over the last few years may send shoppers elsewhere.

“How are you going to get them to spend money when they have nowhere to spend it?” he asked. “We are going backwards.”

However, Simon Boka and Brennan Turner from Soundwest Audio Video have been weighing up other factors. Although their business has seen a recent increase in sales, they are concerned about the way it could ante up between Trail and the nearby U.S. market.

“It’s all about priorities, we aren’t exactly at the top of the pecking order,” Boka acknowledged.

He felt some of that bonus cash could be heading across the border.

“But it’s a bit of a Catch-22 because if people shop across the border, there aren’t going to be any jobs for the same people’s kids when they reach the working age in Trail.”

However, Boka and Turner said some of their regular customers have received their cheques and returned to their store. Some dropping as much as $600 on high end sound-systems for their cars and $1,000 and up on new televisions.

“We’ll get more services and products in Trail if people are willing to spend their money in Trail,” Boka concluded.

The contract covers 1,180 people in Local 480’s production and maintenance division, and 170 people in Local 9705 for office and technical employees.