Vernon’s VantageOne Credit Union is back in business despite union workers walking the line.
Job action commenced Monday, Dec. 14, at the main branch on 32nd Street and the north end branch across from the Village Green Centre. The two offices closed for the day, but were back up and running Tuesday.
“Yes, we are currently under strike notice and the union has stated it will be rotating strikes but no definition on what this actually means,” CEO Glenn Benischek said. “The employer is prepared and able to operate the business either way at this time.”
Basic job protection and fair compensation are what 34 unionized employees at VantageOne Credit Union locations are seeking.
“When the employer is steadfast in their refusal to include even the most basic job protection language, that should be setting off alarm bells in the entire community,” MoveUp vice-president Christy Slusarenko said, representing the unionized workers.
The head office on 32nd Street has been closed to the public since the start of the pandemic. The Okanagan Landing location has remained open as it is not a union branch.
VantageOne said it is very disappointed in the action as it has made every effort to conclude a collective agreement before Christmas.
“As a member-owned financial institution, we greatly value our employees so it’s disappointing to see the action and how the union is characterizing the situation,” CEO Glenn Benischek said.
Negotiations on a new collective agreement stalled the employer after refusal to include basic job protection language for bargaining unit work which is standard in most agreements, according to a MoveUp statement.
“We have seen this tactic in the banking sector of employers trying to get away with cutting jobs and opening the door to outsourcing work outside their communities and it is concerning because the people who get hurt are those who work, live and contribute to the community here in Vernon,” Slusarenko said.
The vote for strike action was unanimous among the unionized employees at VantageOne after unanimously voting to reject the employer’s final offer.
The previous collective agreement between the union and employer expired Nov. 30, 2019.
“They (unionized workers) are also asking for fair improvements to wages and benefits that match their economic reality,” Slusarenko said. “They need good-paying jobs in order to keep up with the cost of living so they can afford to stay here in Vernon.”
VantageOne, which has been around for 76 years, also has locations in Armstrong and Peachland, which are not represented by the union.
“Out of about 60 employees total there are roughly 30 managers,” MoveUp union representative Yudon Garie said while walking the line with employees Monday. “So very top-heavy.”
Union members are concerned that their jobs are being eroded as managers take over their duties.
One employee also said: “We’re seeing jobs not replaced when they retire.”
In their fight for job security, the union members said they will picket as long as it takes for the employer to, “come back to us with something worth talking about,” Garie said.