As you or may not be aware, there are three classes or categories of employees within the RCMP according to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act. The first are those that have representation; those officers now being represented by the novice union, the National Police Federation (NPF), and the officers are now dutifully paying union dues. The second category are those who are managerial, but are excluded from representation, civilian members for the most part. The third and final category are the officers of the RCMP who have no representation. This final category are the upper managerial ranks —Inspector and above, purposely distinguished from the rank and file by their “white shirts” and their brass laden uniforms.
No doubt you are wondering how these “white shirts” are faring in this day and age when the RCMP is being pummelled from all sides. They have had no pay increases either since 2017— despite this loftier status.
To be sure many of those in the elevated ranks have already gathered up their challenge coins and headed for the exits, driven out by old age or a sense of foreboding. Some are clearly worried about their perceived paltry pensions and are seeking salvation and further riches on the civilian horizon; bound for guarding the pipeline, the Independent Investigations Office or dare one mention the new Surrey City Police.
But for those that remain behind and for all those that aspire to become one of the knighted, there is still some hope.
The general public may be a little amazed to to learn that these officers, who have gone from one disaster to another in the last number of years, feel that they need a pay raise and an increase in benefits, usually the reward for a job well done.
However, in the policing world, pay raises are the result of a constant ratcheting effect, a keeping up with the Jones’ kind of rational.
That aside, the difference this year is that for the most part, their pay and benefits are going to be paradoxically tied to the unionized rank and file and the capabilities of the union negotiators of the National Police Federation.
Recently, I listened in to a recorded zoom style meeting, billed as a “Town hall” meeting which was open to all of the white shirts of the RCMP. Admittedly, it was a bit like crashing a get together at a Masonic Hall, as one could not help but feel that by listening in, without an invitation, was somehow illicit.
The meeting was chaired by C/Supt Leslie Ohare and Supt. Bert Ferreira who have been overseeing the “Officer Consultative Committee”. This committee is designed to be an intermediary or representative body for the officers with the Treasury Board Secretariat. The TBS will end up making the final determinations as to the white shirted officers in terms of pay and benefits and is the same Treasury Board Secretariat that is currently negotiating with the NPF.
So things have now changed with the coming of age of this union movement. The white shirts are for the first time facing Treasury Board, cap in hand as usual, but this time dependent on the NPF settlement. The reason is that Treasury Board must know the end results of those negotiations, before they can make a determination as to the rates of pay for the senior executive.
There were two terms heard when listening in on this meeting with reference to the demands of the executive and that is what they call the “pay line” and the need for there to be “no inversion”. In simple terms, they just mean that depending on what a Staff Sargent gets will by necessity determine what an Inspector gets. The accepted labour relations argument being that there is a need for pay separation and also satisfying the need to incentivize these higher positions. They don’t want some lower position getting greater pay and benefits than the white shirted, which would be an “inversion” of the salaries. It is a caste system after all, so one could not bear the thought that some operational lower rank could surpass an administrative manager, no matter what their respective roles and responsibilities.
So, now the white shirts are cheering on the NPF. Ironic to say the least considering that for decades these same managers argued and fought the battle against unionization.
In terms of the current ongoing NPF negotiations, Treasury Board confirmed during this meeting that the negotiations are currently scheduled into June 2021. They are meeting monthly (the next meeting is scheduled for March 2-4, 2021) and all are hoping to have a deal done by the summer –which would require ratification by the rank and file and a possible pay raise by the Fall of 2021.
Should no agreement be reached and arbitration needed, it was also learned that this would delay any settlement for at least another year. One would think that this would not be a very sellable position for the NPF.
Originally, the NPF was arguing publicly for a 17% pay request, but lately in their news releases or interviews they seem to be avoiding those bald numbers in terms of what they are asking, likely thinking that it is better to slightly dampen expectations. One would have to think, that inflation alone for the last few years would probably guarantee an 8% increase. That in itself would bring the 131st rated RCMP constable from $86,110 to $92,998. This is still a long way from the Delta Police who are currently ranked number one at $107,840. Even third ranked Edmonton is at $106,262, still leaving a discrepancy of $13,264 per year.
Of course no one knows what the free spending Liberals are thinking. The Treasury Board makes recommendations to the Cabinet and they base their recommendations on three major factors; the size of the total compensation package, the internal relativity to other similar agencies, and the “state of the economy”. One of the negotiators with Treasury Board described the negotiations with the NPF as “the mood being receptive” but added that there were still “many issues outstanding”.
During this “town hall” the officers asked why they couldn’t get their pay raise immediately, but were given the standard answer of needing to wait for the NPF. These same officers are also now demanding (or asking for) : – unlimited sick leave, an increase in their pay to make up for the fact that they do not get overtime, and forty more hours of annual leave. They were also seeking greater benefits. On their list were increases in the dental service allowance; an increase in the PSHCP dependent coverage and an increase in life insurance from $160,000 to $500,000 with the employer paying all premiums.
These demands would or should not be considered out of line in terms of executive compensation. However, it will be difficult for the general public to rationalize demands for pay raises with the demonstrated fallibility of the RCMP senior ranks. The RCMP has hit a new low in terms of recruitment, morale, pay, and the implementation of the diversity and inclusion agendas.
The last few years has also watched them pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the harassment suits, has seen report after report demanding changes of the RCMP. Shortages in manpower have been termed a “crisis” and over 3,000 complaints were filed against the RCMP in 2017 alone. The use of force during this era of Freddie Gray has risen 10% in the last three years. It has overseen operational and investigational disasters such as Mark Norman and are now waiting for the fallout from Port au Pique, and Cameron Ortis. An internal audit in 2020 said that the Mounties were accepting applicants who were poorly qualified and some even with criminal records. That the emphasis was now on “the quantity of applicants with less focus on the quality”. The solution to these recurring pitfalls is not either obvious or on the horizon.
The senior ranks throughout history have promoted their distinct and honourable position in the RCMP. They are to be saluted when passing, paying deference to their wisdom, experience and at having reached the upper echelons of a world class police department. All of these perceived notions can now be effectively argued and challenged. Promotion to this group has become diluted by policy, dwindling experience and best intentions. The red serge is becoming threadbare, exposed threads being pulled on a daily basis.
This fraying of this once proud organization has been overseen by this same group who are demanding, in fact assuming, they are to be rewarded nevertheless.
Like Marie Antoinette telling the throngs to eat cake in lieu of enough bread to eat, they seem to have “a frivolous disregard for the starving peasants and a poor understanding of their plight.”
Their personal financial goals on the other hand are seemingly quite clear. The senior ranks of the RCMP will continue to demand their cake.
Photo courtesy of Irina via Flickr Commons – some Rights Reserved