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Supreme Court to rule whether RCMP officers have right to unionize

01/15/2015 01:32 EST | Updated 03/17/2015 05:59 EDT
The Supreme Court of Canada will rule Friday whether members of the RCMP can unionize.

The ruling comes out of two separate cases:

- One brought after the government amended a promised pay increase in 2008.

- The other brought in a bid to have the court revisit a previous ruling, 15 years ago, that determined the force can be excluded from the freedom of association.

Other federal employees are covered by the Public Service Labour Relations Act, but the act excludes RCMP members from the right to form a union. RCMP members are instead represented by the staff relations representative program, which elects members and is structured similarly to labour organizations, and the RCMP pay council, which includes officials named by the RCMP commissioner. 

Neither of those bodies are recognized by the federal government or the RCMP for the purposes of collective bargaining or consultation on workplace issues. 

There's also a non-profit legal fund for dealing with employer-related issues.

Achieving workplace goals

The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada says that's not good enough and has been fighting for the right to collective bargaining.

The association won a victory in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2009, but that was overturned on appeal in 2012. There are about 18,000 uniformed Mounties in the national force.

The British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association and an association representing RCMP members in Quebec, as well as French-speaking officers, supported the case.

One question for the court is whether preventing the RCMP from forming a union interferes with its members' freedom of association.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found the interaction between the staff relations program and management could not reasonably be described as a process of collective bargaining.

The Appeal Court, however, found no violation of freedom of association because the lack of a union hasn't made it impossible to achieve workplace goals.

In the case coming out of the pay increase limits, the Federal Court agreed with the RCMP members, but the Federal Court of Appeal disagreed.

Like the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal found there's no violation because the lack of a union didn't interfere with the RCMP members' ability to reach employment goals.

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