January 19, 2015
In a decision that could have wide-ranging labour relations implications for employees and employers alike, the Supreme Court has allowed RCMP officers the right to engage in a meaningful process of collective bargaining.
Historically, RCMP members have been excluded from the collective bargaining mechanisms offered to most federal employees. Instead, they were governed by a management-funded, non-unionized labour relations regime. Though RCMP members could raise workplace concerns and advocate for wage increases through this mechanism, final decisions rested with RCMP management.
The Supreme Court concluded that this regime denied RCMP members a degree of choice and independence sufficient to pursue their collective interests free from management’s influence.
In coming to this conclusion, the Supreme Court took a purposive view of section 2(d) of the Charter which is meant to protect freedom of association. It held that section 2(d) protects three classes of activities:
In determining whether a labour relations scheme violates freedom of association under section 2(d), the Supreme Court re-iterated that the test to be applied is whether the scheme “substantially interferes” with the possibility of having meaningful collective negotiations on workplace matters.
This is a substantially lower threshold than the “effective impossibility” test previously applied by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The Supreme Court held that the essential features of a meaningful process of collective bargaining under section 2(d) are:
The Supreme Court stopped short of explicitly stating that RCMP members had the right to form a union. It held that a variety of labour relations models may provide sufficient employee choice and independence from management to permit meaningful collective bargaining.
What is required is not a particular model, but a regime that does not substantially interfere with meaningful collective bargaining and that complies with section 2(d).
However, in a companion decision, the Supreme Court held that section 2(d) was not violated when the government unilaterally reduced a promised raise to RCMP members in response to economic challenges. In doing so, it confirmed that while section 2(d) guarantees a right to a meaningful labour relations process free from substantial interference, it does not guarantee a particular outcome.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer.
For more information on new developments in Workplace Law, please refer to our website at: http://www.mathewsdinsdale.com/news-events/in-a-flash/
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