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Union Matters

Wednesday 29th July 2020

CWU 1st-Class Credit Union has continued to help hundreds of members and their families during the Covid-19 pandemic, with advice and assistance as well as cash loans and credit facilities…

“We’ve been busier than ever these past few months,” Andy Wright, CEO of 1ST Class CU, tells CWU News from his Glasgow base.

“We’ve got our office in Bell Street staffed on a rotational basis – with half our people in one week and the other half in the next and they’ve been doing a superb job,” he explains. 

CWU 1st-Class CU began life back in 1992, as a joint initiative between Glasgow District Amal Branch and Royal Mail. A specifically local organisation initially, it gradually developed into a credit union accepting membership from all CWU members in any CWU-affiliated company.

                                              Andy Wright

“And we allow family members of our existing members to join and have equal services, benefits and status” says Andy.

“So, whether you work for Royal Mail or BT, or the Post Office or any other company which employs CWU members, you’re very welcome to join – as are any other members of your household.”

Members are asked to commit to a minimum weekly saving of £3 (or £15 monthly), which can be deducted direct from their payroll – and, on application-approval, can access loans from £50 up to a maximum of £20,000.

And a new product, ‘Revolving Credit’, which has proven to be a big success during recent months, provides flexibility to members who are able to draw down cash when needed over a specified period and pay back at approximately 1% per month(APR 12.7%) only on the money they have borrowed.

Interest rates for other loans vary from 12.7% to 6.7% depending on the amount borrowed, but Andy points out: “Unlike banks, we treat every member the same. If they’re approved for a loan, the interest solely depends on the amount and the repayment period,” while another feature which compares well with banks is that loan repayment rates are calculated each time against the remaining value of the loan, rather than against the original full value of the loan.

With regards to savings interest, this was 1.75% in 2019.

1st-Class CU would like to offer members a wider range of products, but this is currently limited under law – although John Glenn, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, told this year’s annual conference of the Association of British Credit Unions that the existing Credit Unions Act is in the process of being reviewed to ease some of these restrictions.

“I’m hopeful that the law will change,” says Andy “although of course Mr Glenn made that speech to our association back in early March just before the Covid-19 lockdown and a lot of normal Parliamentary business has been delayed, so we don’t know when this is going to happen – but we’re optimistic that the changes will be for the better.”

The pandemic has also kept the 1st-Class CU team very busy, with an increase in members seeking help and “hundreds of calls” coming in from members needing assistance due to lay-offs.

“While CWU agreements have protected members themselves, family incomes have been impacted because often their partners, wives, husbands etc have been laid off, or put on reduced pay or some have been made redundant altogether,” Andy explains.

“And so, we’ve either agreed loan repayment breaks, or advanced new loans or offered the ‘Revolving Credit’ product to help them through this difficulty.”

Credit unions are financial co-operatives which provide savings, loans and a range of services to their members, who own and control them.

As they don’t have external shareholders or investors, the emphasis is always on providing the best service to members – not maximising profits.

Without a credit union, and without access to a loan from a bank, the only alternative for a lot of people would be unscrupulous ‘payday loan’ companies or ‘loan sharks’ who impose completely unaffordable levels of interest and leave people in a terrible situation. Even workers who can avoid those may need to use credit cards or overdraft facilities, which are also a very costly line of credit.  

And this is why organisations such as the CWU’s 1st-Class Credit Union are so important.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward says: “Whilst the CWU does not give financial advice to our members, we are proud to work with 1st-Class Credit Union. They have assisted many of our members in recent years and I look forward to hosting a Facebook live event with them in the coming weeks.” 

Andy Wright concludes: “We’re here to assist CWU members and their families and the more members we have, the more we can do and the more people we can help,” says our CEO.

“Join us and help us to help you and others.”

To find out more about 1st-Class Credit Union, please click here to visit their website