Liberals agree to scrap most controversial elements of bill C-7 on RCMP unionization

After a 10-month wait, the federal government has agreed to drop most of the controversial elements of its RCMP labour relations bill.

Government agrees to drop restrictions on collective bargaining as well as secret ballot certification vote

Mounties protesting wages, staffing levels and working conditions pose on Parliament Hill last month, in a photo posted to Facebook. The officers are sporting pants without the traditional yellow strip, as part of their protest. (Facebook photo)

After a 10-month wait, the federal government has agreed to drop most of the controversial elements of its RCMP labour relations bill.

In June 2016, the Senate scrapped several aspects of Bill C-7, including a long list of issues that Mounties would have been restricted from bringing to the bargaining table. Those issues included harassment, conduct, equipment and staffing levels.

In a motion tabled today in the House of Commons, the government accepted the removal of all those restrictions.

It also agreed to reject a requirement that was first introduced by Conservatives, for a secret ballot vote on union certification.

But the government rejected expanding the mandate of the Public Service Labour Relations Board to hear RCMP workplace grievances. The legislation also continues to include the requirement for a single national bargaining unit and excludes the right to strike.

Bill C-7 was drafted in response to a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled Mounties should have collective bargaining rights. The RCMP remains the only major police force in Canada that is not unionized.

According to a news release about the revamped bill from Treasury Board, officials consulted with regular officers and jurisdictions that hire the RCMP to police their communities.

"The government has considered the Senate's amendments to Bill C7 and meaningfully addressed their concerns. At the same time, we have ensured the operational integrity of the RCMP as a police service," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said.

Certification process continues

Last month, the National Police Federation filed its application for certification with the federal labour relations board. It seeks to form a union to represent 17,945 members of the RCMP below the rank of inspector.

It had long sought to certify without having to hold a secret ballot vote, which would certainly pose logistical problems with Mounties serving across Canada and around the world.

As for next steps, the Senate will now have to give its stamp of approval before the bill becomes law.

The original bill proved to be very unpopular among regular Mounties, who'd long agitated for the right to collective bargaining.

But when called to testify before senators studying the bill last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said excluding virtually every workplace issue from the bargaining table was necessary to maintain the authority granted to him under the RCMP Act.

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