In March the Christian Labour Association of Canada became the representative union for the full-time teaching faculty at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. Trinity Western is a Christian liberal arts university, the largest in Canada by student population. This is CLAC’s first representation for an institution of Christian higher education in Canada.
The Trinity Western faculty held a union vote in October 2021 resulting in a majority approval to proceed with CLAC representation. The university administration brought an appeal to the B.C. Labour Relations Board. This appeal was turned down, and on March 10, 2023, faculty received word that their application was accepted.
Kevin Schut has been a faculty member at TWU for 18 years. A member of Trinity CRC in Abbotsford B.C., Schut was involved in this second attempt to unionize. A previous vote in 2014 was defeated. “This has been a long time coming,” said Schut, who noted several administrative actions that concerned faculty and led to a non-confidence vote in the university’s president in July 2021. That summer’s Institutional Prioritization Process, which did include faculty and received input from every academic department, cut programs and terminated faculty positions in favor of supporting programs that “show growing enrollment interest and market demand,” the Langley Advance Times reported. Schut said he and others "had serious questions about the process and the decisions" that they felt were not adequately addressed. “This (forming a union) is not primarily about salary and benefits but about having a seat at the decision-making table and developing a harmonious relationship between faculty and administration for the good of all the stakeholders.”
“We want the best for this institution that we love and believe in. We love the students, and we love teaching here,” he said.
Nathan Matthews is the CLAC representative for Trinity Western faculty. He said he met with all faculty and had multiple meetings with administration and believes the process was positive. “CLAC and TWU share a worldview,” Matthews said. “We want to find a cooperative third way.”
About the Labour Relations Board appeal, Trinity Western’s public relations director Winnie Lui said “Whereas the bargaining unit’s configuration was contested, TWU fully respected CLAC’s application for unionization.” A formal statement shared by Lui said, “As the B.C. Labour Relations Board decision has been made for unionization of full-time faculty, TWU will enter the bargaining process in good faith.”
The next task, with no disclosed timeline, is for the school and the union to negotiate a collective agreement, which would cover 178 people.
The CLAC was established in Canada in 1952 by immigrants from the Netherlands. It currently represents over 60,000 workers in almost every labor sector, with the Trinity Western faculty being CLAC’s first foray into education. The union organizer estimates there are 15,000 Christian educators in Canada.
Editor's note: On May 28 a correction was made to the third paragraph of this story to correctly state that TWU's Institutional Prioritization Process included faculty and received input from every academic department.