Politics

Mounties trying to unionize accuse RCMP of unfair labour practices

Two years after Mounties won the right to form a union, the RCMP and Treasury Board are facing allegations that they're purposely hindering officers' efforts to form an association.

National police force and Treasury Board subject of two formal labour board complaints

Mounties are accusing the RCMP and Treasury Board of unfair labour practices. (CBC)

Two years after Mounties won the right to form a union, the RCMP and Treasury Board are facing allegations that they're interfering in officers' efforts to form an association for collective bargaining and representation.

This week, one of the groups vying to form a national union for Mounties filed a complaint with the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board on behalf of every association working to organize members.

The National Police Federation alleges that by prohibiting the groups from communicating directly with officers over work email, the RCMP is interfering with their right to association. The Mounted Police Professional Association and Quebec Mounted Police Members' Association have made similar complaints.

"No group has been provided access to internal email or intranet. Members are prohibited from looking up any of the [associations'] websites on work computers. It's an undue hardship," said Brian Sauvé of the National Police Federation.

With officers spread out across Canada, sometimes in small rural and remote locations, Sauvé said electronic communication is the only sure bet for getting in touch and informing employees about their options, especially when the only computer or cellphone at their disposal is provided by the RCMP.

Sauvé added that many members of the RCMP don't participate in social media. "Some, like air marshals or undercover officers, are compelled to protect their identity so they can effectively serve the public and safeguard their families."

Bulletin boards inside RCMP buildings are also off limits for union materials as are any kind of discussions while on-duty.

Reprimanded for disseminating information

Cpl. Charles Mancer found that out the hard way. He has since filed his own complaint with the labour relations board.

Mancer is vice-president of the association hoping to represent Mounties in Quebec. Last May, while off-duty at RCMP headquarters in Montreal, Mancer said he and a colleague informed Mounties they had rented a space off-site where people could learn about their association and sign membership cards.

"The reason why we did that is because, clearly, we cannot use the communication system in the RCMP. That's a choice [the RCMP] made. Legally we are allowed on our own time to discuss anything about unions and that's why we informed members to come on their own time in a space outside the RCMP space to talk about it," Mancer told CBC News.

Yet at the end of November, Mancer — who is also a lawyer — received a formal written reprimand. 

RCMP Cpl. Charles Mancer is a lawyer and vice-president of an association hoping to represent Mounties in Quebec. He says he was reprimanded for informing other Mounties about an association meeting. (Submitted photo)

"So this leaves a stain on my record and I have never had any discipline in the past. I have been 17 years in the RCMP and this is the first time," said Mancer.

With no ability to appeal discipline where no pay was deducted, Mancer complained to the labour relations board and is expecting a hearing next month.

No one from the RCMP responded to CBC's request for comment.

Collective bargaining bill still in limbo

However, in documents filed in response to Mancer's complaint, the RCMP through Treasury Board denies it has violated Mancer's rights or engaged in any unfair labour practices.

It asserted the rules are clear — no one can use any RCMP resources to support, promote or share information about forming an association. It also says Mancer should have explicitly asked for permission to participate in the Quebec association.

Meanwhile, there is still no word on what the government will do with its bill to set the ground rules for RCMP unionization.

The Senate sent bill C-7 back to the House of Commons last June after making several major amendments, including removing a long list of contentious issues that had been excluded from collective bargaining.

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