For those readers who don’t follow labour disputes in Quebec, there’s been trouble brewing over the Province’s attempts to reign in municipal pension costs via Bill 3. Because Quebec (and all other provincial) labour laws don’t allow “essential services” unions to strike (not surprisingly, because people could die), police, EMT and firefighter unions have been trying creative ways to get their point across. In the Municipality of Chateaugay (just outside of Montreal), the police force has taken to wearing cowboy outfits (photo credit here):
Not surprisingly, the Municipality protested and filed a grievance. Yesterday, the Quebec Labour Relations Board ruled that it was acceptable for the officers to wear cowboy uniforms as a pressure tactic. While, normal employees would not be permitted to violate their dress code in this way without disciplinary repercussions, essential services employees in Quebec have used these tactics in the past. Montreal police officers have even taken to wearing pink combat pants and jeans to show their “colours” during labour negotiations.
The decision on the Chateaugay Cowboys, published in French here, hinges on the rights of the officers to their freedom of expression and the Administrative Judge’s opinion that the cowboy uniforms would not cause confusion for citizens or create any safety or security issues. Perhaps even more interesting (and maybe troubling) was that the CBC reported that police union spent $25,000 of their member’s dues on those uniforms. They must be real gold stars on their chests.
What are your thoughts? A reasonable use of freedom of expression in face of an inability to strike? A waste of money? Maybe I’m old fashioned, but as a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, I can’t even fathom putting on a costume to pressure my leaders to do something. I hope that now that the Bill has been passed, all police officers will go back to their regular, professional uniforms.