Mounties are one step closer to forming their first union.
The National Police Federation filed an application for certification at the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board in Ottawa late Tuesday.
The federation is seeking to represent 17,945 members of the RCMP under the rank of inspector.
More than half that number have already signed up with the NPF. Most joined the organization over the past two weeks, just as Mounties engaged in a grassroots movement to remove the yellow stripe from their pants to protest working conditions and what they describe as low wages.
Up until that point, Mounties had split their support for a single bargaining agent between the NPF and the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, a rival organization. Support shifted in favour of the federation when it endorsed the so-called 'no stripe' campaign.
Brian Sauvé, NPF co-chair, told CBC News the move is an historic one because for more than 100 years "we have operated purely on esprit de corps and a paramilitary structure and a lot of trust that the government of Canada, the RCMP senior management and Treasury Board would take care of us cradle to grave."
Yet after the last 15 years, Sauvé said, RCMP officers don't believe that anymore. He cited among other things many unfilled positions on the front lines.
"Human resource levels are continually at sub-par standards putting our members' safety, their families' as well as the public at risk. And what is growing more and more apparent is the government's intention to treat us as public servants and not a police force," he said.
Legislation in limbo
The RCMP remains the only non-unionized major police force in Canada. The Supreme Court of Canada granted members of the national police force the right to form an association and collectively bargain with the federal government in January, 2015.
The top court gave the federal government one year to bring in legislation and a framework for the RCMP to unionize.
The Liberals had introduced bill C-7, which was panned by virtually everyone except for senior managers of the RCMP. It would have severely limited what Mounties could have negotiated at the bargaining table. Senators scrapped those elements and sent the bill back to the House of Commons last June, where it has remained dormant ever since.
Since that time, the Canadian Union of Public Employees has applied to the federal labour relations board to represent hundreds of sworn civilian members of the RCMP who work in telecommunications.
The labour board will next hold a public hearing to determine if the NPF application is valid. If it finds everything is in order, the board will then have to figure out a way to hold a secret ballot vote for almost 20,000 Mounties serving across Canada — some in remote locations — as well as around the world.