Alberta chaplains file for unionization

The 17 chaplains would join their coworkers in BC and Ontario as members of USW, if the unionization drive succeeds.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Labour Relations Board released their latest New Applications Report. In the report is a new application for union certification in Alberta.

The application was filed on 2 June 2023 by Local 207 of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, otherwise known as the United Steelworkers.

This union is applying on behalf of all chaplains working in or out of provincially-regulated facilities.

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The employer is Bridges of Canada, Inc., a non-profit organization based out of New Brunswick that provides trauma-informed residential treatment programs, youth camps, and multi-faith chaplaincy services in correctional facilities and community re-entry settings.

According to the application, if the union certification is approved, it would apply to 17 chaplains throughout Alberta.

This isn’t the first time that the Steelworkers have unionized chaplains.

In 2012, the Harper government outsourced chaplaincy services to the private sector, and the contract was picked up by Bridges of Canada in 2016.

Just 3 years later, prison chaplains in British Columbia and Ontario voted to join the USW, followed soon after by the formation of a national bargaining unit for chaplains working in federal prisons.

USW began negotiations on a first collective agreement in 2020, which was ratified by 98% of members in April of the following year.

The ALRB has scheduled a hearing for this application for 16 June 2023. The employer will have an opportunity then to present arguments for why certification shouldn’t occur at that location.

Since the ALRB doesn’t archive their new application reports, here’s a copy of the most recent one.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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