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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Steelworkers strike bank

The thorny issue of performance reviews appears likely to prolong a strike - already a week old - by TD Canada Trust workers in Greater Sudbury, Ontario. "One of the things the union has been talking about is our performance culture," said Kelly Hechler, a TD Canada Trust spokeswoman Monday. "That's something that is fundamental to what we are.

"We are not willing to negotiate our performance clause. We have given our terms to the conciliator and it has not changed. If they are willing to respect the performance culture, we can get back to the table. We are open to going back and talking."

TD Canada Trust gave the union a two-year offer more than a week ago. Under those terms, about 112 members of Local 2020 of the United Steelworkers of America would get a wage hike of 35 cents an hour in the first year, effective July 31, and a performance review raise in the second year.

A performance review would result in no wage hike for one in four employees in the second year, striker Denise Henri said.

"We don't want the performance review," she said, while picketing Monday outside the TD Canada Trust location in Elm Towne Square, the only one of the eight locations open.

"Twenty-five per cent of our members are affected and will get a zero raise. We don't agree. They should be able to get a raise.

"Otherwise, they will only get one increase of 35 cents an hour and nothing for year two."

A nine-year teller, Henri, 46, said the performance review system in place at TD Canada Trust is heavily weighted in favour of the bank. "If they feel you are good and working at the top of the grid, you don't get a raise," she explained. "You can be there 100 years and they have the ability to keep you where you are, so they don't have to give you a raise.

"We have one person with 37 years of service who is making $14.32 an hour ... Somebody with two years of service makes nine cents less. There is a 35-year gap with nine cents difference. This is what performance review is all about and we want to get rid of it."

Henri said she and her fellow strikers are people are watching what happens in Sudbury.

"(The bank) won't bend because if we win, the rest of Canada (other banks) will be saying they want the same thing," she said. "But why should the CEO get a $12-million bonus and we get nothing?

"We do give 150 per cent service ... We do what we do because we like what we do and we just want to be paid adequately.

"If the cost of living goes up, why can't we get cost of living?"

Monday morning's picket line was bolstered by other Steelworkers and members of Mine Mill Local 598/Canadian Auto Workers.

On Monday, strikers were stopping vehicles for a short time before the drivers were allowed to enter the Elm Towne Square parking lot. Security guards with video cameras kept a close eye on the strikers. Hechler said while the bank only has one branch open, a growing number of TD Canada Trust customers are heading to Elm Towne Square to do their banking.

"We are finding we are seeing a lot of customers downtown," she said.

When asked if the bank was concerned about getting a negative image because of the labour dispute, Hechler said it wasn't.

"We believe we made a good offer," she said. "We are very disappointed they (union) didn't present our offer to employees before they rejected it."

The strikers set up picket lines June 18 after last-minute contract talks to produce a new deal fell through.