Aug 04 2016
An employee association that's jockeying to become the Mounties' first-ever union has filed an unfair-labour-practices complaint against RCMP management, accusing it of interfering and favouring the group's main rival.
The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) has filed the complaint with the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board, alleging RCMP brass didn't take "adequate steps" to stop the association's main competitor, the National Police Federation (NPF), from using the force's internal email system to recruit and sign up members.
The certification drive, the biggest in the public sector in decades, follows a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year that gave the RCMP the right to unionize.
The MPPAC and NPF are the two main contenders to form the union. The first to sign up 40 per cent of members can apply for certification.
The association alleges that allowing its rival, NPF, and the closely related Mounted Police Members Legal Fund to use the force's internal email system for mass emails without sanction during an organization drive showed management "is favouring one employee association over another, further interfering in the formation of an employee organization."
The complaint is a latest salvo in what many predicted would be a nasty and drawn-out unionization battle.
MPPAC lawyers had earlier sent several letters complaining about the emails and demanded that NFP and the legal fund be blocked from sending messages via the RCMP's email system.
With the complaint, the MPPAC wants an expedited hearing from the board, which oversees the certification process.
It is seeking an order that would forbid the NFP and the legal fund from using the RCMP's email system and block their addresses from the network.
It also wants the RCMP to retract the NFP and the legal fund's previous mass email messages as "inappropriate" and give the association the right to send emails to RCMP members across the country.
Associations seeking to be certified as bargaining agents are supposed to be free from employer control or influence so they can fairly represent their members. The MPPAC argues RCMP management showed its favouritism by letting the NPF to use the email system "with impunity" while MPPAC was not allowed.
The MPPAC is built on the remnants of the group that successfully led the legal battle to unionize.
The NPF, meanwhile, is a new group built on a strong core of the now dismantled staff relations representatives program, which represented Mounties on labour issues before the Supreme Court challenge.
The emails at the centre of the complaint came after RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson warned staff representatives last February not to interfere with the formation of an employee association or "use any RCMP resources, facilities, computer systems or equipment" for that reason.
The first email was sent by Peter Merrifield, a former staff representative and now director of NPF in March shortly after the federation's creation. It solicited support for NFP and urged supporters to forward information about the new group to colleagues.
In May, the NPF sent another mass email seeking members' support and included a link for members to sign up.
In June, the legal fund sent an email to all its members seeking their personal emails and informing them they had to re-enroll with the fund now that the RCMP refused to collect fees for the fund in payroll deductions. The legal fund is a not-for-profit organization that operates independently from the RCMP. Some 16,500 members voluntarily joined the fund and kicked in fees from every pay cheque that the RCMP had agreed to collect for the fund.
That email particularly irked MPPAC because of the historic and "deep connections" between the NFP and legal fund that RCMP management knew about - including a loan from the legal fund to help finance the NFP's organizing drive.
MPPAC alleges the RCMP's inaction "constitutes serious interference in the formation of an employee organization," the complaint said.
Brian Sauve, the NPF's co-chair, called the complaint baseless. He said that any emails sent by NPF to RCMP colleagues at work came before the Public Service Labour Relations Act kicked in. He argued the MPPAC could have done the same thing.
The RCMP had no comment on the complaint by deadline.
In June, however, Paulson told a Senate committee that he decided to stop the voluntary payroll deductions for the legal fund to thwart a possible unfair labour practices complaint - especially when the fund gave the NPF a loan for its organizing drive.