TORONTO - An Ontario Superior Court judge yesterday awarded the Mounties the right to unionize in a landmark decision that may have huge implications for the RCMP, its culture, and government budgets across the country.
Mr. Justice Ian MacDonnell struck down a section of the RCMP Act that precludes unionization, finding the law unconstitutional. He gave the federal government 18 months to prepare for the decision to take effect, given that it could fundamentally alter the power structure of one or Canada's most important institutions.
The RCMP, whose 22,000 officers work as municipal, provincial and federal police, is often described as the only force in the country that doesn't have a union. For more than a century, senior police commanders have resisted unionization movements, often arguing that it is imperative that the loyalties of the rank and file not be split.
But "why does the wider jurisdiction of the RCMP, or its status as a unique Canadian institution make the labour relations modes in place for other police forces inappropriate," Judge MacDonnell asked in his 35-page ruling ([url=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/v5/content/pdf/rcmpunionruling.pdf]pdf[/url]).
The Mounted Police Association of Ontario launched the lawsuit.
Under the current labour-relations model for the RCMP, police brass impose a "staff relations" program to give a voice to the rank and file.But Judge MacDonnell characterized this as unconstitutional as it was "an entity created by management to avoid unionization."
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