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RCMP officers have right to collective bargaining, Supreme Court rules

RCMP members have won a long-fought battle for the right to collectively bargain with the government.

In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a law that specifically forbade the Mounties from unionizing, saying it violated their charter rights to freedom of association.

The court, however, said forming a traditional union is one option that would restore their collective bargaining rights, but not the only option.

The RCMP has been specifically barred from forming a union since the 1960s. It’s the only police force in Canada with such a restriction.

The Public Service Labour Relations Act currently excludes RCMP members.

“We conclude,” the Supreme Court majority wrote, “that the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests.”

It concludes the current regime denies Mounties that choice and “imposes on them a scheme that does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management’s influence.”

The ruling stops short of endorsing a union as the best solution.

“What is required is not a particular model, but a regime that does not substantially interfere with meaningful collective bargaining and thus complies with [the freedom of association],” the majority wrote.

Beyond overruling the Ontario Court of Appeal in this case, the Supreme Court has actually reversed one of its own rulings.

In 1999, it upheld the ban on an RCMP union, but chose to “revisit” that ruling because it says this case looked at a broader picture and the jurisprudence around collective bargaining has changed since then.

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