Let them Eat Cake

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

Waiting for Godot…and 2021

In the two Act play, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket, two characters have discussions and encounters while waiting for Godot-who in the end never shows up.

In some ways we have been waiting for this new year in similar fashion, a similar tragic comedy. Unlike Godot, thankfully, 2021 should show up.

Wits and pundits have been pontificating on the year 2020 in endless narratives. The virus of course the main theme, maddeningly repetitive, to the point of being irritating. The second tried and true theme or headline maker in the year that was, Mr. Trump, will like the year also be leaving centre stage; with reluctance, but going all the same. The heads of CNN, that liberal cheerleading foghorn is already meeting to figure out how to deal with the impending drop in ratings. 

So we will try not to dwell on either of those stories. 

For instance, did you know that 2020 was declared the “International Year of Plant Health” by the United Nations and the “Year of the nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization?  Me neither. 

 Did you remember that this was a leap year —which started on a Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. I didn’t know that either. 

There were other news events, contrary to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the news editors around the country. 

The Australian bushfires killed over 500 million animals; thousands of people were evacuated after a volcano in Luzon erupted; in February the stock market crashed and plunged by over a million points; 23 people were killed in Portapique Nova Scotia; in May, China reports no new cases of Covid since the pandemic began; Africa is declared free of wild polio since the eradication of smallpox in that continent some 40 years previously; the International Criminal Court accuses the Philippines of crimes against humanity in its war on drugs, while the United States formally accuses Switzerland and Vietnam of currency manipulation. 

Mary Higgins Clark an American novelist died this year; as did Kobe Bryant. As did Little Richard and just this past week, John Le Carre. Different voices, different impacts but all having tilted the earth a bit on its axis. Many others left this world, less notable maybe, some you knew, some you knew of, and some with whom you had no connection. But their impacts were no less meaningful to those within their inner circles. 

The finality of death confirms for each of us that we are but a small speck in this infinite universe and all of us are on an unpredictable time line. It should make us appreciate our own reality and the part that we play in it. It should allow us to have a perspective. Although it is often difficult to ponder a larger time line in this current social climate, bombarded as we are with the narcissistic pull of selfies, tik tok, and memes substituting for conversation.We are often snug in own self-interest, often oblivious on what really matters. 

The trial by fire for this generation is now judged by many to be this dastardly flu. A flu affecting 1% of the population, but killing in great numbers our elders. Many of those elders, those walking history lessons, have been forced to spend their last minutes on earth separated by glass partitions from the very people who really matter to them. That was and is the true single tragedy of this virus. 

The vast majority of us have been unaffected. The wealthy have been exponentially increasing their wealth, and many others have been relegated to bemoaning Netflix and iTunes for not providing enough to keep us entertained. It seems difficult at times to compare our fight to the “greatest generation” and their 20th century battles.  

During this crisis, the middle income earners, have been free to buy up all that is in the stores, bake more, build decks, and put money usually gone to vacations into a new boat or a home large screen television.  All while working at home –claiming to be at the same level of productivity— which still doesn’t seem logistically feasible. 

People in the service industry predominantly have lost their jobs, while housing prices in Vancouver are predicted to rise 4% next year, car sales are up and no hot tubs can be found in stock. 

The bottom 10-20 % who should be in revolt because of their having to bear the weight of this pandemic, have been temporarily satiated or more accurately sedated by the unlimited spending needle of the various levels of government. That will come to an end in 2021 and one can only wonder how long that cash infused stupor will last.  

The drama of the virus plays every night, every waking hour on the 24 news cycle, which has really been reduced to a fifteen minute loop.  A constant stream of fear, bolstered by constant experts with ever more dire predictions. Who would have thought that there were so many epidemiologists in this country? Many have seized on this period of time to be their Warhol fifteen minutes. I have also sadly concluded that not all of them are that smart. Emergency room and ICU doctors present themselves are now folding under the pressure of having to make constant “life and death” decisions. One would have thought that was part of the job description.

Other doctors, who have a counter narrative, are often pushed to the side, while others are elevated to super human pedestals. Dr Bonnie Henry dancing in her Fluevogs. Dr Fauci the tiny  U.S. superman called upon to defy both Trump and the virus. 

Big Pharma once the subject of all that is evil (where is Michael Moore now?) are now riding white steeds into the breach to save us all.  Does anyone now care what the vaccine costs?  

Does anyone believe that we are well positioned in our hospitals and emergency rooms for any natural disaster? All those emergency planning departments that have been around for years apparently did not have enough foresight to make sure there were enough medical masks for an ICU unit that may have to run at 100%. We learn throughout the country that are capacity is in the hundreds, when thousands may be needed.

But let’s not digress too deeply into that deep anxiety ridden hole. Let us pull out of this flat spin and talk about what the hopes, aspirations and predictions are for the new year. 

First the predictions. 

It seems too easy to predict that our news for the next few months will be stories of who gets to be first in line. Stories of blackmarket vaccine, why them and not me will push us to the point of a mental breakdown. 

It is just as easy to predict that the government line will continue to brag about having ordered enough vaccine to inoculate the country several times over.  (Trump’s group by the way say that they will have inoculated their 300 million by June…Canada with its 37 million by September.) All politicians are now hoping that the vaccine and its life saving qualities will paper over the sometimes ridiculous anomalies and undulating policies of the last few months. 

I will predict that the RCMP members will finally get a pay raise. A secondary prediction which flows from this—  half of them will bitch that it is not enough, while their union will brag about their skillful negotiations. 

I will predict that the new Surrey Police Department will begin to form contrary to the RCMP Union wishes. I will also predict that the to be named Deputies under the new Chief Lepinsky will be announced and identified first by their race or gender. I know, too easy. 

I predict that there will be a story about a 1950’s Armed Forces jeep breaking down on Hwy 401 in the slow lane, filled with vaccine, stopped in its delivery of the vital lifeblood on the way to Doug Ford’s house. 

I predict in the next few months that theatres and gyms will remain closed, but liquor stores will remain open. 

I predict that the Federal Liberals will call an election in 2021, feeling that the general population sees them as the only gift that keeps on giving. In that vein, I will predict until that election time, fraud in CERB claims will not be investigated. 

Trudeau will salivate at the chance to run again (how could he possibly go back to being a high school teacher) and Ms. Freeland’s rising star will start to dim as the burden of the Finance Ministry and commanding a trillion dollar economy with no background in finance will begin to wear her down.  

More people will work from home and government productivity will continue downward. They will also continue to blame Covid 19 into the years 2022 and 2023 for the delays and obfuscations. 

I will predict that the newsrooms of the world will be scouring video and online chat, to identify a possible a new Covid-2021 to replace Covid-19, in a need to re-capture the ratings of 2020 and their very survival.  (They have recently latched on to “variations” in the virus.)

I predict Trump will retire to Florida, will hole himself up in golf memorabilia filled room, eating cheeseburgers and Kentucky Fried Chichen- growing his hair to his waist, with darkened long fingernails peeking out from under his kaftan a la Howard Hughes. Forever tweeting from obscurity but never being seen in public. 

I will predict that Biden will be sworn in as U.S. President and for the next four years will do nothing, which will please everyone. Kamala will continue to be frustrated as the President reaches the ripe old age of 81. Fit as a fiddle and in good spirits despite having to try and keep his son out of jail. Hunter Biden will continue to be the hunted. 

What are our hopes for the New Year? 

I do hope that Commissioner Lucki will find the fortitude to begin a major re-building of the RCMP. That somehow she will begin to realize that she is running an operational police force, not a cultural institution. (I should point out that I do not have a good track record when it comes to projecting hope…every year I hope that a Porsche Carrera ends up in my driveway with a big red bow)

I hope that Bill Blair is replaced.  

I hope that we will return to a level of civility in this country, one where people are allowed to speak and be heard, in spite of having a different perspective. 

I hope that this virus will at the very least lead to an improvement in how we treat and handle our elders. That we re-think the warehousing model. That an extended family once again becomes “a new normal” (I also hope with all my heart that the phrase the ‘new normal’ also goes the same way as the virus). 

I hope that we begin to read and understand history. Believe it or not, most if not all the problems of the future have been part of the past. To pay attention to that past will show us the way, or at the very least lead to some greater depth of understanding. 

I hope people will find the fortitude to give an honest assessment of all this Covid fighting and the ominous repercussions which have yet to be measured. I sincerely hope that human rights is once again is part of that measurement. 

I hope that journalism finds its way. It is completely lost.

I hope that you coppers out there stay safe. 

But most of all, I hope that all of you enjoy Xmas and have someone near and dear (Zoom near of course) I hope that all of you find something under the tree ( shares in Zoom? )

I am a lucky person, with both friends and family, and I wish all of you the same luck.

 I will continue to pompously lecture from this blog site, safe and forever comfortable in always being right and very wise. 

Happy Holidays everyone…. thank you all for reading and your support.  

Merry Xmas.

Photo courtesy of SilverTD via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved