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Supreme Court: Ban on Mounties' collective bargaining unconstitutional

In the 1960s, the right to collective bargaining was gained by federal public servants in Canada. However, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Mounties were not allowed to form unions.

That may change now that the Supreme Court has overturned its own precedent and said that RCMP officers can engage in collective bargaining. The current labour relations regime, the Court said, violates the Mounties' Charter right to freedom of association, and now the federal government has a year to implement a new labour relations scheme that doesn't violate that right.

In opposition to the change, the federal government argued that granting collective bargaining rights to the RCMP could lead to "an unlawful strike or other debilitating job action." However, that argument was dismissed by the justices, who noted that police forces throughout Canada already enjoy the right to engage in collective bargaining.

The Court's ruling stopped short of prescribing a specific model of labour relations for the Mounties. Rather, the Court said, "What is required is not a particular model, but a regime that does not substantially interfere with meaningful collective bargaining." The decision leaves open the possibility of an RCMP union.

Voluntary associations of RCMP officers currently exist, but management still has the final say regarding pay and benefits. A major victory for the Mounties, the Supreme Court's 6-1 ruling means that RCMP members can begin discussing a new labour relations model that protects the right to bargain as a group to establish appropriate pay and benefits.

For more on employment law in BC and throughout Canada, please visit the employment litigation website of Overholt Law.

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