Appeal court ruling delays RCMP unionization drive | National Union of Public and General Employees

Appeal court ruling delays RCMP unionization drive

However, union organizers get broader access to organize officers while waiting for related Supreme Court ruling this fall.

Toronto (4 Oct. 2010) - The Ontario Court of Appeal has granted the federal government a temporary reprieve in its ongoing legal battle with rank-and-file RCMP officers seeking the right to form a union.

A lower court ruling that struck down a section of RCMP regulations prohibiting officers from forming a union was supposed to take effect this week.

It would have allowed two associations representing more than 2,000 officers in British Columbia and Ontario to take steps immediately towards negotiating a legal collective agreement. However, the Court of Appeal has now agreed with a request by the Harper government to impose a further delay.

As a result, the lower court ruling will not take effect until 30 days after the Supreme Court of Canada issues a decision, expected sometime this fall, in a case involving the rights of farm workers to unionize.

In granting the delay, the Court of Appeal has imposed conditions allowing the B.C. and Ontario RCMP associations greater access to members to discuss the benefits of a union.

“This is one way of levelling the playing field,” Justice Kathryn Feldman said on behalf of a three-judge Court of Appeal panel.

The RCMP must allow the associations access to the internal e-mail system "without interference" to contact members and to meet officers at their place of employment, she said.

Laura Young, a Toronto lawyer representing the associations, said the organizations are pleased at the broader access provisions ordered by the court. “It will be much easier to communicate with the membership. This is very important,” she said.

RCMP officers are represented now by “staff relations representatives” who deal on behalf of members with management.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled in April 2009 that this arrangement does not constitute an “independent” bargaining process and as such violates the right of RCMP officers to form a union (as provided by the Charter or Rights and Freedoms) if they choose to do so. Prior to the appeal court decision, the 2009 ruling was to have been implemented by Oct. 6 this year.

Federal legislation to implement the 2009 ruling will now be delayed until after the Supreme Court ruling on farm workers' rights.

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