The union representing Victoria police officers has warned Esquimalt that if it contracts RCMP services, there could be serious financial, administrative and legal repercussions.
If the province approves the township’s RCMP recommendation, the union says its collective agreement would continue, and the union would apply to the B.C. Labour Relations Board for successor rights to represent the non-unionized RCMP officers who would work in Esquimalt.
That could prove expensive for Esquimalt, said Tom Stamatakis, president of the B.C. Police Association, the union representing 243 uniformed Victoria officers.
“Citizens should be concerned because if (labour issues are) not resolved through negotiation and consultation then that means you end up in litigation, and that costs money,” Stamatakis said.
He warned Esquimalt council in a letter made public at a council meeting last week, which he also sent to Clayton Pecknold, the province’s director of police services, Solicitor General Shirley Bond, Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.
Fortin, chair of the Victoria Police Board, said if the province allows Esquimalt to switch to the RCMP, “you would think the province and Esquimalt would be responsible for (any) transition costs.”
But Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said the police union’s letter “came prematurely,” because the solicitor general has not yet made a decision on Esquimalt’s police proposal.
The township’s contractual obligations under the current collective agreement differ depending on the source.
Fortin said the police board, made up of Esquimalt, Victoria and provincial representatives, employs the officers, and the two municipalities pay the police bill.
Desjardins said the board employs the Victoria officers, while the City of Victoria pays their salaries.
“The police union may have a contract with VicPD,” she said. “That is a very different thing than people suggesting we have a contract for policing with Victoria. It’s not with Esquimalt.”
The mayors agree, however, that the situation is complicated due to the nature of the provincially-mandated police amalgamation, said to be the only one of its kind in B.C.
“We are an amalgamated police force and I don’t, nor does anyone at this time, understand the complexity of this, and nor do we need to at this time because we have not received a response from the solicitor general,” Desjardins said.
If the police association applies to represent RCMP officers working in Esquimalt, “it’s going to be a mess in sorting that out” because RCMP officers are not allowed to unionize under federal law, said Kenneth Thornicroft, law and labour relations professor at the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.
The province could pass legislation to deny those successor rights, he said.
But if the Township’s RCMP officers came under the current collective agreement, “potentially, police officers in Victoria – if they have seniority rights or bumping rights – would bump into those positions. How would the RCMP be able to carry on? They would no longer be RCMP employees,” Thornicroft said, adding he doesn’t foresee that happening.
“It’s legally going to be a tangled web, that’s for sure.”