Director affirms right of PWRDF staff to unionize

By on February 14, 2008

Cheryl Curtis

Cheryl Curtis, executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) has commented on the decision by the fund’s staff to form a union, saying the right to organize for collective bargaining “is an enshrined right in Canada and one that we as a church support.”

PWRDF is the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada.

In a news release, Ms. Curtis stressed that the staff’s decision to unionize “will not alter the significant relationship that we have with partner churches or organizations around the world and it will not impact the work that we do with those partners.”

On Feb. 8, the PWRDF staff voted 13 in favour and four against to unionize and become part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Unionized employees will be part of a unit of CUPE local that was formed by Kairos, an ecumenical justice network of which the Anglican Church of Canada and PWRDF are members.

This is the first attempt to form a union by employees at PWRDF, which in 2001 became separately incorporated from General Synod (the governing body of the Anglican Church of Canada). An earlier attempt by all General Synod employees to unionize failed in 1997.

Earlier, staff said the formation of a union by a church-backed group should not be seen as unusual since similar groups like Kairos are themselves unionized.
They added that PWRDF’s work relates to unions and unionized workers. “In a way, we’re putting our money where our mouth is. We’ve always believed in the rights of workers to organize themselves,” said one staffer in an interview.

PWRDF management did not raise any objections when a notice came from the Ontario Labour Relations Board that employees had applied to form a union.

Under labour law, an employer is allowed to raise any questions or objections about plans to form a union five days before employees cast their votes.

CUPE, which has more than 500,000 members across Canada, represents workers in various sectors including healthcare, education, libraries, social services, transportation, and municipalities.

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