Northern Savings Credit Union has been easing the financial strain on its members affected by the teachers’ strike.
Building on a program brought in when the forest industry here collapsed more than decade ago, qualifying members can either postpone payments, consolidate debts or take other measures, says credit union official Sharon Stromdahl.
“We recognize that for some, it may be awhile yet before they see a paycheque,” she said last week.
The strike, which began with the cancellation of several weeks of classes at the end of the school year in June and which kept schools closed for three weeks this month, was the longest in public school history in B.C.
While teachers lost pay estimated in the $7,000 range, the strike affected other people who would normally be working in the schools or providing goods and services.
Stromdahl did not have numbers as to how many credit union members have sought relief, but said people have been coming into every one of the credit union’s four northwestern B.C. branches.
“We evaluate each on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
For some members, it might be borrowing on the equity in their home to eliminate or otherwise reduce debt that carries a high interest rate, Stromdahl added.
“That could apply to people who have credit card debt,” she said.
Stromdahl believes the credit union has offered payment relief measures at least once before because of a labour dispute.
Meanwhile, the Academic Workers’ Union which represents instructors and other workers at Northwest Community College has contributed $3,500 to northwest teachers.
“This is the largest donation we have made as far as I can remember – more than 10 years at least,” said Reto Riesen, the union’s treasurer.
The money is being divided up between the five northwestern B.C. teachers’ union locals belonging to the BC Teachers’ Federation with $1,000 for the Prince Rupert Teachers’ Union, $1,500 for the Terrace District Teachers’ Union, $500 for the Bulkley Valley Teachers’ Union, $250 for the Haida Gwaii Teachers’ Association and $250 for the Nisga’a Teachers’ Union.
“Our members know the importance of solidarity and through this financial support we know that solidarity is going to shine a bit brighter today,” said Academic Workers’ Union president Marja Burrows.
The Terrace teachers’ union will use the money for its hardship fund.