RCMP await Supreme Court decision on whether they can unionize

Mounties are eagerly anticipating a decision this Friday from Canada’s top court over whether they can unionize.

Currently, RCMP members are not part of the labour relations regime established for other federal public sector workers. Instead, they elect staff relations representatives to advocate on their behalf on pay and workplace issues.

Critics say these in-house representatives are “part of the chain of command,” and that RCMP regulations preventing Mounties from forming an independent association to engage in collective bargaining is a violation of their Charter rights.

One York University labour expert has gone so far as to suggest that the current RCMP labour management model wouldn’t be out of place in China.

The RCMP is the only major police force in Canada without a union. In 2009, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that the ban on forming a union was a violation of the Charter, but that decision was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2012.

In filings with the Supreme Court of Canada, the Mounted Police Association of Ontario and the B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association — informal Mountie associations that are not recognized by RCMP management — cited studies that have made “damning observations” of the RCMP’s work conditions, including heavy workloads, an ineffective promotion system and a failure to meet the needs of injured members.

Total compensation for Mounties continues to fall outside the average of the top three police forces, said Rob Creasser, a spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, the umbrella organization for the provincial police associations.

Creasser said the current system of representation is more akin to “collective begging” than collective bargaining because all staff relations representatives can do is make recommendations to management and the Treasury Board about pay. “It doesn’t allow them to be effective. They have no power,” he said.