CUPE makes 1st move to unionize some members of RCMP

The RCMP's 911 dispatchers could be the first sworn members of the national police force to be unionized. The Canadian Union of Public Employees has applied to the Public Service Labour Relations Board to represent all 745 civilian RCMP members.

Unionization of frontline officers likely to take much longer

Cpl. Chantal Farrah manages the RCMP Operational Communications Centre in Fredericton last year. CUPE has applied to represent the Mounties' 745 civilian telecom operators. (CBC)

The RCMP's 911 dispatchers could be the first sworn members of the national police force to be unionized.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has applied to the Public Service Labour Relations Board to represent all 745 civilian RCMP members.

The move comes two years after the Supreme Court of Canada granted RCMP members the right to form an association.

CUPE spokesman Philippe Gagnon told CBC News the telecom operators asked CUPE to be their unit. He refused to say whether the union is negotiating to represent thousands of other civilians working for the RCMP, such as those who work in the forensic lab or who monitor wiretaps.

While it has yet to file an application, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) also wants to represent the telecom operators. PSAC already represents a number of public servants who work in administrative roles at the RCMP.

"It has always been our intention to organize more civilian workers at the RCMP because of our experience with these workplaces and this employer," PSAC president Robyn Benson said in a statement sent to CBC News.

"I believe PSAC is in the best position to represent them. Although CUPE has filed, the process is still ongoing. PSAC is still engaged in the process, and we are meeting with the workers."

Brian Sauvé, who is with the National Police Federation (NPF), one of two major groups working towards certifying thousands of frontline officers, said he thinks it's a "good move.

"This is going to be, in essence, a dry run for when the regular member association makes an application and goes down that road."

Terry McKee speaks for the other group hoping to certify Mounties, the Mounted Police Professional Association (MPPAC). 

"We support any process that will afford better benefits and workplace conditions for our members," he said.

Even so, McKee and Sauvé both say it's disappointing that the civilians won't be able to join their groups, which they argue was in the original spirt of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in January 2014. 

Frontline Mounties likely to take longer

When the federal government drafted Bill C-7, which would have officially set out the conditions for Mounties to unionize, civilians were excluded from representation. 

Civilian members are, despite not being gun-toting police officers, sworn members of the RCMP.

In 2013, Parliament enacted legislation that gave the government discretion to turn those employees into public servants, but that has yet to happen.

As for frontline members, they remain the only unrepresented police in Canada.

There has been no movement on Bill C-7 since the flawed piece of legislation was overhauled by the Senate and sent back to the House of Commons last June.

MPPAC and the NPF have continued their efforts to sign up Mounties. Sauvé says his group should be ready to submit its application for certification by early March. 

Heavy workload and lower salaries 

Yet many Mounties have expressed their desire for both associations to amalgamate in order to present a stronger, united front against RCMP management and Treasury Board. 

"We are working towards that," McKee told CBC News. "We have started communication between both associations and we're hopeful that we can get some results to this in the near future."

Heavy workloads and salaries are by far the biggest issue for Mounties right now.

RCMP members used to receive an average of the top three police agency salaries in Canada. Since around 2008 though, RCMP salaries have fallen steadily behind. McKee says the national police force's salaries rank 73rd out of 82 agencies.