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Union open to East Kootenay credit union merger

The president of the union that represents employees at East Kootenay Credit Union and Heritage Credit Union says he’s “cautiously optimistic” a merger between the two could benefit their members.

But United Steelworkers Local 1-405 president Grant Farquhar says it’s too early in the amalgamation process to make many definitive statements.

He says they have only had one brief conversation with both credit unions since the proposed deal was announced, but will meet with East Kootenay management on July 7.

“We’ll see how that goes but overall what they told us in the first meeting, we are cautiously optimistic it will be good for the unionized memberships,” he says.

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Farquhar says after a merger of six Kootenay credit unions fell apart last year, they expected they might see some smaller deals reached. The local represented all of the unionized employees involved in that proposed arrangement, except those in Grand Forks.

Although the union did not take a position for or against the larger merger, Farquhar says they were “definitely nervous” about what it would look like, since it would have meant overlapping branches in some communities.

In this arrangement, however, the two institutions cover different territories. East Kootenay has unionized employees in branches at Elkford, Fernie, and Cranbrook as well as a member services centre. The Sparwood branch is not unionized.

Heritage Credit Union has unionized branches in Castlegar and the Slocan Valley and a non-union branch in Greenwood.

“This is a little easier transitionally because we’ve had a really positive relationship with the group at Heritage for quite a few years,” Farquhar says.

“That relationship allows us the opportunity to try and build a better relationship with the group from East Kootenay as well.

“It will be interesting to see what managerial structure they put in place and who is put into certain roles. Once we see what the hierarchy looks like, we’ll be able to make a more determined response as to how we feel it will affect the membership.”

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