RCMP union bill moves forward without change to health benefits

Parliament's public safety committee has deleted two controversial sections of a bill that would have moved injured Mounties from an internal RCMP health services program to provincial workers compensation programs.

Commons committee removes health benefit changes but doesn't touch issues excluded from bargaining

The Supreme Court granted Mounties the right to form a union or association for collective bargaining. The RCMP is the only police force in Canada that is not unionized. (CBC)

Parliament's public safety committee has deleted two controversial sections of a bill that would have moved injured Mounties from an internal RCMP health services program to provincial workers compensation programs.

Bill C-7 was introduced by the government to bring the RCMP into compliance with a Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled Mounties have the right to collective bargaining. But C-7 also contained a list of issues excluded from the bargaining table as well as the controversial proposal to shift Mounties hurt on the job to workers compensation.

Mounties, their spouses, retired RCMP members and labour lawyers testified at a Commons committee about inconsistencies in health benefits among the provinces. They said moving RCMP members onto the provincial workers compensation schemes would result in Mounties being treated differently depending on where they're posted.

Today, committee members unanimously supported amending the bill to remove the sections relating to health benefits.

Exclusions disappoint federation  

Brian Sauve is with the National Police Federation, one of the groups vying to represent Mounties at the bargaining table. He thanked MPs for listening to Mounties' concerns.

"They realized it was inappropriate at this point in time to slide those in without any meaningful consultation," said Sauve.

Yet Sauve said he is disappointed the committee decided not to alter the list of issues such as harassment, staffing levels, promotions, transfers, discipline and equipment that Bill C-7 will exclude from collective bargaining. 

"The exclusions that are in this bill will in my opinion, severely limit the ability to negotiate a proper collective agreement taking into account safety, health, working conditions and resource levels," Sauve said. 

I think what has happened is that committee has raised their concern, has essentially put the RCMP on watch.- Committee chair Rob Oliphant

NDP MP Daniel Blaikie introduced an amendment to remove all of those exclusions. Liberal MPs expressed some interest in removing harassment and workplace safety from the list, which would have made them subject to bargaining. 

However, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told the committee that harassment was inextricably tied up with officer conduct and could not be bargained. He also assured committee members that senior management always has officer safety top of mind.

"I think what has happened is that committee has raised their concern, has essentially put the RCMP on watch, that our public safety and national security committee is watching how the RCMP handles harassment as an issue and we'll be expecting updates regularly," said Liberal MP and committee chair Rob Oliphant.

Sauve said he feels the committee erred by leaving the exclusions in place and narrowing the scope of any future collective bargaining. "That's it. Pay and benefits. I think it flies in the face of the Supreme Court of Canada decision," he told CBC News.