LOCKPORT, N.Y. (8/18/08)--Cornerstone Community FCU, based in Lockport, N.Y., has confirmed that more than 70 union employees went on strike Friday, shutting down two branches. At issue is the cost of the health insurance premiums the credit union provides for staff. The union, Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 212, represents 73 of the credit union's 94 employees, Ann M. Brittin, Cornerstone president/CEO, said. It includes all tellers, loan personnel, member service representatives and clerks. In a press release, the $234 million asset credit union said negotiations had been underway since October 2007 to reach a new labor agreement to replace a four-year contract that expired in November. "Cornerstone and Union negotiators reached a tentative agreement, later rejected by Union membership, that would continue to provide employees with a more-than-competitive benefit package, including single and family health insurance coverage for full-time employees and a 401(k) retirement plan," said Brittin. Brittin told News Now that the rejected agreement asked employees to contribute 5% of the monthly health insurance premium, starting in November 2009. The plan also had slightly higher co-pays on physicians' visits and prescriptions, she added. Health insurance costs had risen 53% between 2004 and 2008. The credit union's press release noted New York State Department of Labor statistics indicate the credit union's current average wage rate for its union employees falls above the 90th percentile when compared with wages of employees at other regional and statewide financial institutions. "As a member-owned credit union, we must also maintain a fiscal responsibility to our members as stewards of their assets," she said. The credit union stated that its historical roots and ties to the union concept means it supports the position of a union as representative of its members' best interests. Six of the nine members of Cornerstone's board are affiliated with unions. Until the matter is resolved, the main office in Lockport will continue all functions and regular hours, the credit union said. ATMs are open at its Stevens Street and Middleport branches. Members also were directed to several local shared-service centers the credit union participates in with three other local credit unions for full services. No new negotiations have been scheduled, Brittin told News Now.