Pension remains stumbling block

Steelworkers locals 9705 and 1-405 have been trying to negotiate a new contract with nine branches of Kootenay Savings Credit Union since November of 2010. The only substantial issue outstanding from these negotiations is pension.

Steelworkers locals 9705 and 1-405 have been trying to negotiate a new contract with nine branches of Kootenay Savings Credit Union since November of 2010. The only substantial issue outstanding from these negotiations is pension.

In 2009, KSCU announced that they were making changes to the pension plan. The union informed them that our contract language states that they will maintain the current pension plan or its? Equivalent. We informed them that if they want to change the benefit levels, they have to do that during bargaining, not mid contract. KSCU chose to make the changes mid contract and we filed a grievance on the matter.

The grievance was heard on Feb 3 by arbitrator Vince Ready. At the Arbitration, the Union presented documents from the Pension Plan Agreement, the Trust Agreement and the company’s own pension pamphlet. These documents set forth the terms and conditions for administration of the pension plan. In our opinion it is clearly stated in the documents that KSCU will fund the pension plan based on the recommendations of the Actuary’s. In good times, KSCU will pay lesser amounts into the pension plan, up to and including 0 per cent, and in bad times they will pay additional amounts into the pension plan in order to maintain the benefit levels. We presented these same documents to our membership on Feb 8th. If presenting legal documents agreed to by KSCU makes me a liar, then so be it.

The ruling from the arbitration will determine whether the KSCU is responsible for reimbursing their employees for the changes they made to the pension plan for the 2010 calendar year. The current contract expired Dec 31, 2010 and both parties are entitled to negotiate new collective agreement language. The company has tabled language that would allow KSCU to implement any changes the trustee make to the pension plan without any reimbursement to the employees. The union is fighting to keep the original language.

To date KSCU has increased the retirement age from 60 to 62, increased the employees contributions by 1.5 per cent, increased the early retirement penalty from three per cent per year to six per cent and reduced the indexing. We feel it is imperative that our members have a stable, reliable Pension Plan to invest in; one they can count on with fixed benefits to aid them in planning for their retirement.

Kootenay Saving Credit Union has taken the unusual, though legal step of applying to the Labour Board for a last offer vote. Our members will be voting on the companies last offer, with the diminished pension language, on Tuesday, Feb 15th. We have received numerous letters of thanks from our membership since our meeting on Feb 8th and on behalf of the bargaining committee we thank you all for your support, we will get this resolved to your satisfaction.

Chuck Macklon, president

USW Local 9705