MPs have voted in principle to comply with a Supreme Court order sanctioning a union in the RCMP. One MP, a former Mountie, lamented the passing of police traditions under the bill permitting collective bargaining.
“Personally I believe the RCMP should not be unionized,” said Conservative MP Jim Eglinski (Yellowhead, Alta.), a 35-year Mountie; “There is not unanimous agreement within the RCMP as to becoming unionized; there is a group within the organization that wants to go that way.”
Bill C-7 An Act To Amend The Public Service Labour Relations Act complies with a 2015 court order that struck down an RCMP union ban as unconstitutional. The ruling followed years of appeals by the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada. MPs yesterday passed the bill on Second Reading and referred it to hearings of the Commons public safety committee.
“I did not join up for the $4,800 a year but rather for the pride of serving our great country,” said Eglinski, who joined the force as a 19-year old constable in Williams Lake, B.C. in 1968; “We were all proud to serve, and we gave much to it in long hours without overtime. We got the job done with basic equipment, by doing it with pride. In those days some of our cars didn’t have radios.”
Bill C-7 allows 28,000 RCMP members to create the largest police union in the country, but with restrictions. Disciplinary and staffing decisions by management under an RCMP Code Of Conduct are exempt from arbitration; strikes are disallowed; and disputes are to be arbitrated by the same panel that hears other public employee grievances, the Public Service Labour Relations & Employment Board.
MP Eglinski lamented the loss of the Mounties’ traditional non-union grievance process that saw disputes raised through a Division Staff Relations Representative program. “There was a program I feel at one time worked extremely well,” he said; “We voted for those people and they represented us.”
“They argued for us; worked on discipline matters, internal matters, promotional matters; and when government listened to them, we were at the top level of Canadian police forces,” Eglinski said. “We did not say that we had to be number one; we just wanted to be at the top and to be fair. However things have gone down drastically.”
“Canada’s internationally-acclaimed police force should not be at the bottom of the pile,” he said. “It should be at the top.”
RCMP recruitment has fallen to 861 new cadets last year, less than half the 1,783 recruits accepted in 2009, by official estimate. Police earlier confirmed they have accepted cadets as old as 52.
The Mounties spent an average $1.2 million a year on national recruitment in the period from 2007 to 2015, according to accounts tabled in Parliament.