RCMP telecommunications staff vote to join Canadian Union of Public Employees

About 1,300 RCMP telecommunications staff have voted to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Vacancy rate at Manitoba RCMP telecommunications centre was 32 per cent in October: report

RCMP operational communications centres across the country are understaffed, in some cases by more than 50 per cent. (RCMP)

About 1,300 RCMP telecommunications staff have voted to join the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

CUPE made the announcement Wednesday, saying the decision by RCMP telecom operators and intercept monitor analysts to join will likely be certified by mid-March.

Intercept monitor analysts are responsible for "recording, monitoring, analyzing or transcribing live or pre-recorded intercepted telecommunications," according to a Government of Canada website.

"Our 650,000 members across the country warmly welcome the RCMP telecom operators and intercept monitor analysts into the CUPE family," said Mark Hancock, CUPE national president in a statement.

"They worked very hard to create their own union, and CUPE will proudly continue to defend their interests."

The vote breakdown was not disclosed.

Understaffing, low morale

The decision comes on the heels of reports of widespread understaffing, low morale and even bullying in RCMP telecommunication centres over the past several months

An internal report obtained by CBC in January suggested interpersonal conflicts were hurting morale among the people who handle 911 calls at the RCMP Manitoba telecommunications centre. 

Numbers show the RCMP's operational communications centres across the country are understaffed, with the national vacancy rate hovering at 27 per cent, and some seeing rates as high as 50 per cent. 

In Manitoba, the vacancy rate at the RCMP telecommunications centre was 32 per cent as of October 2017.

"You have people answering the phone that are stressed out of their mind. You have some people that are really just running on fumes," one OCC operator, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told CBC last year.

Regular and civilian RCMP members won a long-fought battle for the right to collectively bargain in a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision, which struck down a law that specifically forbade the Mounties from unionizing.

CUPE said their organizing drive started in the fall of 2016, noting those who joined "had been without representation with their employer since May 2016."

With files from James Fiz-Morris