Thursday, January 25, 2007

Which Mounties did Stockwell Day speak to?

Policing is seen by many as an essential service, and in many jurisdictions they are prohibited from going on strike, but that does not mean they aren't allowed to form a union and bargain collectively. Every police force, that is, except the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. That's right, the Mounties are forbidden by law from forming a union -- have been since 1919.

Now, some members of the Red Serge want to change that. There is a "staff association" but many have accused it of being the pawns of management and want a real union. But in comments today, Public Security Minister Stockwell Day claimed the "vast majority" of Mounties he's talked to like the status quo.

Which members of The Force? And in what parts of the country? One can make a statement like that with a straight face if he only asked people in Alberta, which has one of the lowest levels of unionization in the country. Did Day bother to ask others -- in other parts of the Prairies, the West Coast, the Atlantic? Or in Central Canada, where the RCMP has a substantially smaller but still significant role in law enforcement?

The fact is, while the Mounties are police and a militia unit simultaneously, they are public servants. And as employees of the federal government, the people of Canada really, they should have the same rights as those in the civilian service and the military. To treat them with a lesser standard and to deny them one of the basic rights of democracy, that to bargain collectively, violates one of our most important freedoms -- freedom of association. Liberal MP Dan McTeague wants to change that with private member's bill C-392.

Fortunately, I'm currently in a work environment where it's not really necessary to have a union. We're generally well treated and well compensated compared to our colleagues in other parts of the service industry. In fact, during my work life, I've only been a member of a union for two years and not once during that time did I see the need to file a grievance. And there have been times when I felt that unions had way too much power and influence in Canada.

That being said, I would like to know that if circumstances were to change in the future that made things difficult, the option existed to at least try to certify a union local. It's simply ridiculous that 21,000 men and women are specifically denied what the rest of us are entitled to under federal or provincial law. Stockwell Day might want to talk to some more Mounties -- he might discover there's a lot more discontent than what he's been led to believe.

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