The union that Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley (UFV) employees joined before the branch was shut down last week has filed an “unfair labour practice” complaint with the B.C. Labour Relations Board.
The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) filed the complaint today (Friday) in support of the 17 individuals who were employees of Habitat’s ReStore locations in Abbotsford and Chilliwack.
Habitat for Humanity Canada – which builds homes in partnership with families in need – recently terminated the membership of the UFV affiliate, resulting in the closure on May 12 of the ReStore locations.
CLAC representative Jeff Wilson said, prior to the closure, employees approached the union with concerns about workplace culture and poor treatment.
“Over a short period of time, Habitat Upper Fraser Valley changed CEOs several times, leaving employees feeling vulnerable. Poor treatment ultimately led to employees feeling like they needed to give themselves a collective voice in their workplace,” Wilson said.
He said after discussions with internal organizers, employees decided to sign membership cards and have CLAC apply for certification to represent them as their union.
Wilson said that support throughout the card-signing process, and the subsequent secret ballot vote conducted by the BC Labour Board, was significantly in favour of unionization.
He said that shortly after the vote was conducted, the union was informed that Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley was going to shut its doors. The reason given for the closure was the organization’s dire financial position, he added.
“Considering the assets – both in property and inventory – and what we have heard about sales at the Abbotsford ReStore, something doesn’t seem right to us,” Wilson said.
“With 17 people losing their jobs, and the community losing the services of an organization with a great track record of helping vulnerable people find a home, it leaves us with no choice but to file an ‘unfair labour practice complaint’ with the BC Labour Board.”
Wilson said the Labour Board will expedite the hearing to take place within three business days.
“The hearing will help bring all the issues regarding the closing of Habitat for Humanity Upper Fraser Valley to light, and will be the best way to protect our members’ rights,” he said.
Sources who spoke with Black Press about the situation say the national office closed down the UFV affiliate to break the union.
But David Morris – the acting CEO brought in to help fully dissolve the local affiliate – has denied the claim, saying the branch was already in the process of being shut down before the union vote.
The UFV branch was based in Abbotsford, but also served Chilliwack, Mission and Hope.