I am trying to imagine rationalizing the good of being a member of a group like the United Steelworkers, when I work in a bank. Let's see if the Steelworkers can get more for these people than they did for the folks at the TD Canada Trust.Front Page, Monday, January 14, 2008, p. A1
CIBC workers vote to strike
Staff votes 27-25 to reject bank's latest contract offer Sunday afternoon
Employees at the five Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce branches in the Sudbury area were on the picket line this morning for the first time since joining the United Steelworkers of America two years ago.
Workers voted 27 to 25 to reject the bank's latest contract offer Sunday afternoon and immediately began the process of creating picket signs.
A CIBC bank spokesman said the bank would close four of its five area branches, leaving only the New Sudbury Centre branch open.
Rod Cumming said that branch would extend its hours, operating 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, but would be closed Saturday during the strike.
Normally, the branch is open Saturday and is open 9 to 5 p.m. during the week.
Customers can also take advantage of banking machines, telebanking and the Internet, said Cumming.
The United Steelworkers organized CIBC workers in early 2006 and were able to achieve a first contract without a work stoppage. However, that contract expired in November.
Jim Kmit, staff representative with the Steelworkers, said bank employees - mostly women - faced many of the same issues their counterparts faced at the Toronto Dominion Bank, where the workers struck for five weeks last summer.
There are 66 unionized workers at CIBC in Sudbury with 62 casting their ballot Sunday. There are another 20 CIBC employees in Sudbury who are not part of the union.
The key issues are monetary, said Kmit including wages, pensions and benefits. "The bank does not pay 100 per cent of the premiums on medical benefits. The workers are looking for a 'years-in-service' factor on their pensions so they can go on pension at an earlier age. And the wages weren't satisfactory."
As was the case at the TD Bank, wages varied by individual.
"Some of the people got raises in excess of 90 cents over the two years and some people were well below that."
Cumming said the bank's negotiating team is prepared to get back to the bargaining table to discuss the issues and were awaiting the call of the federal mediator.
The closeness of the vote didn't surprise him, said Kmit.
"These people have never been on strike before and this is all brand new to them, but the majority of them feel they deserve something much better than they have been offered. This was a final offer from CIBC."
The deal did not receive the recommendation of the bargaining team, said Kmit. It was offered to the members "just as it was and the majority have said that was not enough."
Had the contract been accepted the base rate of pay would have been $12.73 an hour. The top rate would have been $21 an hour. However, most of the rates are below $15, Kmit said.
We had a brief visit from on of the TD Canada Trust group but he never came back. They were trying to decertify. I suspect getting a ground swell of bank workers to become union activists would be challenging.