Federal government to introduce legislation allowing RCMP members to join a union and engage in collective bargaining.
Ottawa (08 Dec. 2015) — RCMP officers are a step closer to exercising their rights to join a union and engage in collective bargaining, granted to them nearly a year ago by the Supreme Court of Canada.
On December 7, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced that the government will introduce legislation providing a collective bargaining framework for the RCMP in the next several months. This proposed legislation is in response to a decision earlier this year by the Supreme Court that found the current labour relations system, which is dominated by management, is unconstitutional.
Proposed legislation the result of Supreme Court of Canada decision earlier this year
On January 16, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that RCMP officers have the right to join a union of their own choosing and participate in collective bargaining, free of management interference. The Court gave the government one year to come up with new legislation. Failing that, the RCMP would have automatically fallen under the Public Service Staff Relations Act, legislation that governs collective bargaining for all other federal public service employees.
It appears that the government won't meet that January 2016 deadline and is expected to ask for an extension. Minister Goodale said yesterday that the government will not be in a position to table legislation until the end of February.
Disputes to be settled through binding arbitration and with no right to strike
It is expected that the new legislation will allow RCMP members to be represented by a bargaining agent that is independent from RCMP management. The officers will be declared essential employees, meaning that any disputes not settled through collective bargaining would go to binding arbitration, and officers would not have the right to strike.
Currently, RCMP operate under a non-unionized labour relations system called the Staff Relations Representative Program, which is financed by the RCMP. Officers have the right to be consulted over their pay, benefits and working conditions, but management ultimately has the right to decide on the outcome off those consultations.
RCMP only police force in Canada without a collective agreement
In its 6 to 1 majority decision, the Supreme Court said the current Staff Relations Representative Program "is simply an internal human relations scheme imposed on RCMP members by management. The element of employee choice is almost entirely missing and the structure has no independence from management."
The decision also noted, "The RCMP is the only police force in Canada without a collective agreement to regulate the working conditions of its officers. It has not been shown how or why the RCMP is materially different from the police forces that have the benefit of collective bargaining regimes that provide basic bargaining protections."
Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada hopes to be bargaining agent
The case before the Supreme Court was brought forward by the Mounted Police Association of Ontario and Mounted Police Professional Association of British Columbia. Since then, both organizations have merged and formed a national body, the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC).
The MPPAC has already begun holding information sessions across the country with regular and civilian RCMP members with the view to building support for the MPPAC to act as the bargaining agent for RCMP employees. It is expected that these efforts will turn into a full-fledged union organizing campaign in the New Year.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE