Kootenay Savings staff vote to strike

The United Steelworkers say pension language protection and the lack of a wage increase are the biggest stumbling blocks.

Kootenay Savings Credit Union is headed to mediation after employees voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike.

United Steelworkers locals 9705 and 1-405, which represents 110 employees at branches and offices in Salmo, South Slocan, Kaslo, Trail, Fruitvale, Castlegar, and Kimberley, said the move came after 17 days of contract negotiations over the past six months.

In a news release, the union said key sticking points remain pension language protection, hours of work for the new member service centre, limiting of member health benefits, and no wage increase for two years.

Pension language was an issue in the last round of bargaining in 2011, Steelworkers staff Rep and lead negotiator Dean Lott said: “This issue was arbitrated by Vince Ready and he found in favour of the union. We’re not prepared to give that language up.

“We understand the pressures put upon this employer and other credit unions in the region. In the current low-interest rate environment they are not making the money they used to. But that being said, our members are doing more and more with less.”

Lott said the credit union has cut costs by shaving positions and not replacing people when they leave or retire, distributing the duties to the remaining employees.

“The strike vote is a strong message to the employer: our members are doing their part and they deserve better.”

The sides are headed to mediation, with dates expected to be scheduled soon.

“Kootenay Savings will be making no comments during negotiations,” CEO Brent Tremblay said.

The Nakusp, New Denver, Radium, and Invermere branches are not unionized.

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