Habitat for Humanity and the union representing employees at the former ReStore locations in Abbotsford and Chilliwack have reached a settlement. (Abbotsford News file photo)

Habitat for Humanity reaches settlement with union

Laid-off workers in Abbotsford and Chilliwack to receive severance payments

  • May. 29, 2018 4:48 p.m.

Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley has reached a settlement with former employees represented by the Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC).

CLAC provincial representative Jeff Willson said the two sides met at the Labour Relations Board (LRB) on Monday, resulting in a settlement that includes severance payments “substantially greater than those required by law.”

He said specific terms of the agreement remain confidential, but the parties are pleased with the outcome.

“We have been able to represent the interests of the affected employees and have ensured they are fairly compensated,” Wilson said.

“This is a dedicated group of people who are passionate about the charitable work performed by Habitat for Humanity. We continue to represent their interests by helping them secure new employment.”

CLAC local 501 filed an “unfair labour practice” complaint on May 18 with the LRB on behalf of 17 workers who lost their jobs when the Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations in Abbotsford and Chilliwack closed on May 12.

The stores were shut down after Habitat for Humanity Canada – which builds homes in partnership with families in need – terminated the membership of the Upper Fraser Valley (UFV) affiliate, saying the branch had “overextended itself” financially.

Wilson previously said that, prior to the closure, employees had approached the union with concerns about workplace culture and poor treatment.

He said the LRB complaint was filed to bring all the issues to light regarding the closure of the affiliate and the best way to protect the workers.

Wilson said Habitat for Humanity has since shared information with the union arising from the continuing investigation into financial irregularities that led to the closure of the business.

David Morris, who was appointed acting CEO of the local branch, has previously stated that the affiliate had racked up at least $500,000 in debt, had exhausted its lines of credit, and had a “disturbing pattern of activity” that included a senior manager “making the unauthorized purchase of an expensive vehicle that was then portrayed as personal property.”

He said police have been informed, and a forensic audit of the financial records will be undertaken.

Morris said Habitat had pledged to “make the best of an undeniably troubling situation” for staff, and they had difficulty understanding why CLAC filed its complaint against “a cooperative and responsible employer.”

But they are pleased with the results of this week’s hearing.

“The settlement mutually agreed to (Monday) recognizes and appropriately compensates those most adversely affected by a shutdown,” Morris said.

Wilson said in the event Habitat for Humanity opens retail operations in the Upper Fraser Valley in the future, CLAC will continue to have bargaining rights with them.

The UFV affiliate was based in Abbotsford, but also covered Chilliwack, Mission and Hope.

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