By a vote of 13 in favour and four against, staff at the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the relief and development arm of the Anglican Church of Canada, voted on Feb. 8 to unionize and become part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
One staff member, who asked not to be named, said the union was formed “as a mechanism to facilitate staff-management relations.” All 17 staff who were eligible to vote did so.
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.
Staff said the formation of a union by a group associated with a church should not be seen as unusual since similar organizations like Kairos, an ecumenical peace and justice group of which the Anglican Church of Canada is a member, are themselves unionized.
They added that the PWRDF’s work involves working with 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 the staffer in an interview.
PWRDF management did not raise any objections when a notice came from the Ontario Labour Relations Board that employees had made an application 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.
The quiet campaign to unionize began in mid-fall. “Having looked at various options, it was thought that unionizing was the best,” the staffer added. CUPE, which has more than 500,000 members across Canada, represents workers in various sectors including healthcare, education, libraries, social services, transportation, and municipalities.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and president of PWRDF’s board of directors, said that he would consult with board members and the fund’s executive director, Cheryl Curtis, before making any comment.
Ms. Curtis was not available for comment.