Mounted Police Association of Ontario

B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association

May 17, 2006 15:38 ET

RCMP Members Demand Freedom of Association and Accountability

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 17, 2006) - The Ontario and British Columbia Mounted Police Associations filed an Application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today seeking declarations that the exclusion of RCMP members from federal public sector labour relations legislation, the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA), and certain other statutory provisions, is unconstitutional. The intentional exclusion of RCMP members from the legislation effectively impedes their ability to form and maintain a labour association, contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Application also targets the Code of Conduct provision which prohibits public criticism of the RCMP, the mandated Staff Relations Representation Program, which works in cooperation with management, and the internal dispute resolution procedures, which are overseen by the RCMP's own Commissioner. These statutorily mandated controls and systems work together with the exclusion of members from the PSLRA to make it impossible for members to associate together and seek justice in the workplace.

The RCMP is the only major police force in Canada which does not have an independent members' association to negotiate with management. Although members of the RCMP have formed associations, these groups are not recognized by RCMP management, and are therefore unable to make collective representations on behalf of the membership.

Members feel vulnerable and frustrated. The public does not understand the working conditions under which RCMP members are asked to carry out their jobs. The issue is about the quality of the workplace. The membership does not seek the right to strike. The application is about giving members the choice to select independent representation, just like every other police force in Canada. The application is about being fair to the members, and according them due consideration and respect for the difficult job they do.

In the affidavit material supporting the application, members speak of harassment and discrimination, as well as abuse of authority as rampant within the Force. The overarching common theme, however, is not so much the fact of these problems, as how the Force has dealt with them. The approach is one of denial. Rather than addressing the situation, the problem is made worse by attempts to minimize it, ignore it or cover it up. That approach has led many members to such severe stress and depression that they can no longer function in the workplace.

When members search for help in dealing with management, their only option is the Staff Relations Representation Program mandated under the RCMP Act. Representatives are RCMP members who work within the RCMP, and look to RCMP management for training, promotions, transfers and other career opportunities and benefits. Their scope of responsibility is circumscribed, and they and the system are dependent on the goodwill of management. In many respects, the system is irrelevant, however it does serve to block opportunities for other groups to make representations to management, as management refuses to recognize other groups, and instead is committed to dealing exclusively with Staff Relations Representatives.

Adherence to the Staff Relations Representation System, instead of offering members a choice for independent representation, further adds to members' stress and anxiety. The affidavit evidence shows that members have been disappointed by the Staff Relations Representation System again and again, and thus it is no wonder that when polled, members have given low marks to the effectiveness of the system.

The problem does not sit with the members. A full 89% of members surveyed have indicated that they are strongly committed to making the RCMP successful. However in that same survey, only 47% indicated employees are trusted and respected, and only 42% thought employees were treated fairly. The problem is systemic. RCMP management has given its employees good reason to doubt that labour relations under the current system will ever be just.

The new government in Ottawa has made a commitment to Canadians to press for transparency and accountability in government. That is what the members of the RCMP need and deserve. That is what the Application seeks.

The Associations have committed to seeing the Application through to the highest level of appeal, however the Associations hope that the federal government will recognize the importance of independent representation to the membership, and act out of a sense of responsibility to the members who are suffering. The Associations will pursue the legal battle, but ask what legitimate reason the government could have for denying RCMP members' the rights of association enjoyed by all other police forces in Canada? Why must the difficult job of policing be made harder? The question should be answered by eliminating the exclusion of RCMP members from the PSLRA and thus allowing the members freedom to associate.

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