Some residents in Alert Bay — most notably the mayor and council — are more than just a little irked their only bank has drastically cut back on its operating hours after the fishing community failed to come up with $10-million the credit union said it needed to operate full time.
But the head of Coastal Community Credit Union said there was no choice and the decision to cut back was a tough one.
Near the end of May, Adrian Legin, president of CCCU, requested a meeting with council of the Village of Alert Bay, a fishing community of about 1,200 on Cormorant Island.
Legin had a “blunt and unexpected message,” stated a letter to the North Island Gazette, signed by Alert Bay Mayor Mike Berry and his council.
“CCCU had decided that they would cut its local hours by 40 per cent effective on October 1, 2011,” read the letter, in part.
“As local credit union staff can’t feed their families on part-time wages, this move has effectively wiped out a number of jobs.”
Four, to be exact, said Berry, who noted the bank is now staffed by part-time employees from Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Sointula.
“At the time there was minimal consultation — basically they told us they’d already made up their minds they were going to pull way back on services to the point we don’t have anyone from Alert Bay working at the Credit Union,” said Berry from his home in Alert Bay.
“Legin said, ‘Here’s your current deposits (of approximately $10-million) and that gets you 15 hours a week of credit union services and were you to double that amount we could consider more hours.”
The Alert Bay bank now splits the 15 hours and operates a few hours each Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Berry said it’s a devastatinging blow to the small community that’s been losing businesses and people for the past few years.
“North Island College used to have a big campus here, the Coast Guard left, the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans — this was the only centre between Campbell River and Prince Rupert — pulled out lock stock and barrel, as did the RCMP boat,” he said.
“People move away because we have no opportunity here.”
In the letter, council said it was “not blind to the fact that both communities and corporations have to compete to survive.
“What we can’t swallow is the manner in which a supposedly socially responsible corporation lost touch with a local market, and then penalized the community as a means of solving the problem — there has to be a better way.”
If there is, CCCU was unable to find it, said Legin.
“I think what’s important and what I want people to know is we were trying to serve Alert Bay,” he said.
“Given the current business levels at the location, this was the right decision for us to continue to serve the community in a financially responsible way.”
While it was the right decision, it was a tough decision to make because it was realized the change was difficult for Alert Bay members and the community of Alert Bay,” said Legin, who added there are no plans to pull the bank out of Alert Bay.
“But I really hope the people can understand and appreciate the work we’ve done to remain in Alert Bay and make the change as smooth as possible for everyone,” he said.
“It followed a long period of study and careful review and we too were disappointed the financially responsible thing to do was to adjust our service delivery to three days a week.”
Still, Berry said he has a hard time understanding the bank’s point of view.
“I still believe in the cooperative nature of CCCU and that’s the image they’d like to convey, but it’s obvious the branches stand alone,” he said.