CUPE accuses government of acting in bad faith on RCMP wage hikes

CUPE accuses government of acting in bad faith on RCMP wage hikes

The Canadian Union of Public Employees doesn't formally represent them yet, but it's going to bat for civilian members of the RCMP. 

CUPE is alleging the federal government has broken the law by wrongly excluding those employees who handle emergency calls or intercept communications from long-awaited, retroactive wage increases announced this week.

On April 5, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Treasury Board President Scott Brison announced a 4.8 per cent wage hike for members of Canada's national police force. Mounties had not had a raise since January, 2014.

Yet the announcement made no mention of sworn civilian members, whose pay increases have always been matched to regular members who work as police officers.

Several civilian members fired off letters to officials, seeking clarification.

In one response obtained by CBC News, the RCMP's head of human resources, Deputy Commissioner Dan Dubeau, made it clear that it was a government decision not to extend the raise to civilian members.

"(Treasury Board) did not approve any raise for our (telecom operators) given this group is currently subject of a certification application by CUPE to represent this group in future collective bargaining processes," wrote Dubeau.

He then cited sections of the Public Service Labour Relations Act that say how, after learning employees want to form a union, the federal government may not "alter the terms and conditions of employment."

In December, CUPE applied to the public service labour relations board to represent 745 civilian members. It was the first such bid since the Supreme Court of Canada granted Mounties the right to collective bargaining in January, 2015. 

Quebec Mounties getting raise

On April 4, Mounties in Quebec filed their own application for certification at the federal public service labour relations board. Yet they're getting the raise announced this week.

A spokesperson for the Quebec Mounted Police Association said he believes it all comes down to how they moved to certify at virtually the same time the government granted the raise.

For its part, CUPE said it is in the process of filing a complaint with the labour relations board.

"An employer not only has the power but also the obligation to continue to act normally and as planned in carrying out their labour relations," CUPE said in a statement to its prospective members titled "We shouldn't have to fight for your wage increase...but we will."

"So when the employer grants a wage increase on a given date, particularly if it is retroactive, the moratorium does not preclude its implementation. On the contrary, the law requires that it be implemented," the statement said.

The union said the government's actions are an obvious demonstration of bad faith.  

"The law also provides that the employer may change the applicable conditions of employment, in consultation with the union organization," reads the statement, adding that it certainly would have granted a request to give civilian members a  retroactive raise.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Goodale reiterated that the government cannot alter the terms and conditions of employment — including salary — after staff apply to join a union.

As for the Quebec Mounties who will receive the raise, Scott Bardsley said the wage increases were announced just prior to the government being notified about their application for certification.