When Sheila first started working at Westminster Savings Credit Union back in 1993, she remembers the reason she was proud to join them – namely their values of caring for the community, their members and their employees.
It was a very positive work environment and it was what kept her there for so many years. The credit union’s members were like her family. Her co-workers were supportive. And there were good benefits, including a defined benefit pension plan and fair pay. These reasons were enough for her to come to decide that she would finish off her career with this company.
But that picture perfect image started eroding over the last few years. She started noticing some shifts in the workplace. The work-life balance for employees that had once been a defining characteristic of this employer was slipping away. She also felt that the respect afforded to workers, particularly to long-term employees, seemed to drop dramatically.
Sheila prides herself on being a strong individual. She chooses to try and keep things positive and optimistic. But her quiet inner strength should not be mistaken for weakness. Over the years, she has faced her fair shares of hurdles. For many years while her husband worked a night shift, she had the responsibility of raising a young daughter and a stepson. She’s also a cancer survivor, which should tell you just how much inner strength and resolve she has.
When times were tough, it had been her extended family at Westminster Savings that helped her overcome these hurdles. A decent salary and good benefits allowed her to heal and continue on as a dedicated customer service representative.
But the declining morale and the growing division between long-term employees and new employees at Westminster Savings brought on by changes in management have taken their toll. It was why she knew it was the right thing to do to go out on the picket line with her fellow colleagues on January 22, 2019 to fight to save the defined benefit plan for future generations of workers.
The security of a good pension was what gave her strength when she faced challenging times. She would be ashamed if she turned a blind eye to new and young employees today who may be facing similar challenges.
Standing up and saying ‘no’ to changes to the pension plan, and witnessing the support from across the labour movement, has been an overwhelming experience and has rejuvenated her strength that she slowly felt being sapped away over the past few years.
As a grandmother now, Sheila is proud to be a strong example of solidarity and to have her children and grandchildren know she is fighting to make a better future for them.