By Ron Csillag
Religion News Service
TORONTO -- A labor relations board in Canada has granted an Adventist worker the right to not join a union because of her religious beliefs, raising questions about whether religion should trump labor laws.
The Saskatchewan Labor Relations Board ruled last month (Feb.) in favor of an unnamed 24-year-old woman who argued that her Seventh-day Adventist beliefs forbid her from joining trade unions, allowing her the right to opt out.
However, she will still be subject to any collective bargaining agreements, and her union dues will be collected but diverted to charity.
Ken Georgetti, president of Canadian Labor Congress, told the National Post that workers -- religious or otherwise -- should not be allowed to opt out of a system that gives them economic and social benefits. "I'm sure the woman is not going to give up her pension benefits or her overtime pay," he said.
The right of Canadian workers to forgo union membership "should be universal rather than specifically religious," Niels Veldhuis, a senior economist at the conservative Fraser Institute, told the Post.
The federal government and most Canadian provinces have religious opt-out clauses from union membership.
Seventh-day Adventists "are to preserve our individuality. We are not to unite with secret societies or with trade unions," says the denomination's website.