Employees of First Credit Union, represented by the BCGEU, in Powell River and Texada Island branches have ratified a Collective Agreement, with over 95% of members participating in the vote and 56% in favour of the Collective Agreement. The agreement provides ongoing economic benefits, long-term income security, enhancements in benefits, and increased recognition for part time employees. Members expressed unhappiness, however, during bargaining with many of the Employer's positions. Attacks on the defined benefit pension plan, unilateral exclusion of positions from the bargaining unit, a proposal to increase employee contributions to benefits premiums, and repeated insistence on another six years Collective Agreement were contentious.
High economic priorities in bargaining were income increases greater than predicted inflation and preservation of the defined benefit pension plan. Annual increases of 2.8% for six years are higher than the Canadian inflation projections of Canadian banks. Inclusion in the variable compensation plan is expected to provide an additional 1.25% in annual bonuses.
Bargaining Committee Member Wendy Larkin explained the importance of the pension plan, "unions have a responsibility to look out for members long term economic security. Our success in bargaining provides six years of assurance that members' rights to the defined benefits pension plan are safe."
Committee Member Laurel Healey emphasized the gains in benefits. "Members will pay less for benefits as this contract matures. The Employer will bear the increased costs of MSP, dental and related benefits. MSP premiums increased 6% in 2011 and will increase another 6% in 2012. Members are protected from these increases while ill members will derive weekly indemnity and long term disability income tax-free." Other changes result in a 25% reduction in the waiting time to become eligible for benefits.
Many members working less than full-time have not had access to paid vacations, sick time and other benefits of the collective agreement. "Part-time employees working at least 60 hours per month will now be protected with Health Care Leave. All part-time employees will receive paid vacation. This is particularly important for those members who have responsibilities for child care, elder care or other family responsibilities," said Committee Member, Maggie Poole.
The substantial “No” vote indicates that First Credit Union must address significant employee dissatisfaction on a variety of issues. The Union will continue to work on issues with the Employer through the Joint Standing Committee in hopes that members' working lives can be enhanced.
At the same time, this Collective Agreement achieves the goals of the membership – annual economic improvements, long-term economic security, improvements in health and welfare benefits and increased equality within the bargaining unit. The ratification of this agreement shows the appreciation that members have for the accomplishments of their elected Bargaining Committee.