SCC: Mounties have right to engage in collective bargaining
Published Friday, January 16, 2015 7:02AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 16, 2015 6:09PM EST
Members of the RCMP will have the right to engage in collective bargaining similar to other Canadian public servants, following a landmark ruling Friday by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The decision, which overturned an earlier SCC ruling, appears to have cleared the way for rank-and-file Mounties to eventually form a union.
"It's going to lead to very positive changes for us," Rae Banwarie, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, told CTV's Power Play.
"Now we're going to be able to deal with management and make suggestions and sit down at the table and have frank discussions, with the end result being resolution."
The decision gives the federal government a year to update its labour relations policy with the RCMP, which will likely require talks between Mounties, Commissioner Bob Paulson and Ottawa.
“We acknowledge the decision of the court, and are currently reviewing it," said a statement from Jason Tamming, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney.
"We thank RCMP officers who work hard every day to keep Canadians and their communities safe."
In 1999, the Supreme Court upheld a decision that barred Mounties from forming unions -- unlike federal public servants who have had the right to engage in collective bargaining since the 1960s.
Friday's decision was 6-1 in favour of extending that right to Mounties. The explanation for the decision by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Louis LeBel did not specifically say RCMP officers have the right to form a union, but it appears to have opened the door to just such a development.
Laura Young, the lead lawyer representing the RCMP, said the ruling makes future unionization possible and removes a process that was "foisted" on members by management.
"We hope now to move ahead with a very positive process," she told reporters following the decision.
Banwarie said RCMP officers want to work with management to address what they consider to be longstanding issues, mostly related to resources, pay, benefits and equipment -- issues they claim have been lingering for 10 years.
One reason those issues haven't been addressed, Banwarie said, is that RCMP members' interests have not been properly represented.
He said officers hope to form a "police association" as opposed to a union.
"It plays a vital and very key role in every aspect in the police organization," Banwarie told Power Play, adding that it was an "awesome day for democracy, an awesome day for every member of the RCMP."
RCMP officers currently have voluntary associations funded by members' dues that work with management to establish pay and benefits, but final decisions are left up to top brass within the RCMP.