Good morning, honourable members of the parliamentary committee.
My name is Brendan McKenna and I am the spokesman for the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association and the co-spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada. I've been involved in the association movement for 22 years. I am a founding member of both the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association in 1994 and the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada in 2010.
The B.C. MPPA is a non-profit provincial association. It's the provincial arm of MPPAC, the national association.
I spent 30 years serving with the RCMP, all in British Columbia, primarily on detachment—including the largest detachment in the country, the Surrey detachment—in both medium-sized and small detachments in the north. I provided relief on a three-person isolated post when the nearest assistance was more than a two-hour drive, so I bring a fairly broad perspective to bear on this.
I'll begin by speaking and sharing my concerns regarding the lack of core components found in Bill . I'll focus primarily on two areas: the factors to be considered in interest arbitration, and restrictions on the scope of bargaining in the areas of staffing levels and equipment.
Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the right to strike is constitutionally protected. RCMP members do not seek the right to strike. They recognize that the work they do is essential. However, what they do seek is that an alternative to striking, interest arbitration, be fair and independent.
As the Public Service Labour Relations Act and Bill are currently drafted, the interest arbitration process for RCMP members is anything but fair and independent. Rather, an arbitrator must give preponderant weight to two factors, including the government's stated fiscal policy. This skews the whole process in favour of the employer. This is the opposite of fair and independent, and contrary to the charter of rights of RCMP members.
The British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association calls upon the committee to amend Bill to allow an arbitrator to give equal weight to all factors and to not be required to consider the government's stated fiscal policy.
Another concern of the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association is in the area of restrictions on scope of bargaining in particular with respect to staffing levels and equipment. These two areas have a direct impact upon the occupational health and safety of front-line police officers. They have a direct impact on the quality of the work environment. Front-line officers who are overtasked, inadquately resourced, and underequipped cannot reasonably be expected to consistently deliver the high-quality service that the job demands and that the Canadian public expects.
We're being compared to civil servants under the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The survey of RCMP employees conducted by the previous government resulted in over 9,000 RCMP members clarifying that they wanted separate legislation solely for the RCMP and thus Bill .
We know that the Liberal government is committed to ensuring that the Supreme Court of Canada decision is complied with, but we are concerned that this bill misses the mark.
Bill as written does not fully meet the spirit and intent of the Supreme Court of Canada decision that provides the right of collective bargaining to the RCMP. I submit that the court's intention was to clarify that RCMP members should be accorded the same rights and privileges as all other Canadians and Canadian police colleagues in the various municipal, provincial, and federal agencies.
The restrictions contained in Bill would be akin to guaranteeing a person the right to vote and then limiting the placement of voting polls to locations that cannot be accessed. Essentially, vitiating that right.
Those restrictions within Bill , as currently written and unless amended, preclude RCMP front-line membership from having effective and meaningful input into two areas critical to occupational health and safety. This is because Bill C-7 misses many of the key fundamental elements found in collective bargaining in other agencies that enshrine organized labour in Canada.
There are several police associations around the country that have collective agreement provisions regarding minimum staffing levels, including the Toronto Police Association, Sudbury, Windsor, and the Durham Regional Police Association, just to name a few.
Anecdotally, I can provide my own experience in front-line operations. Our detachments are generally under-resourced. There's a variety of reasons for this. I believe the primary reason is that those individuals on the pointy end of the stick have no input. Contracts are negotiated between the federal government and either provinces or municipalities. Fiscal considerations appear to be the prime motivator
Policing is expensive. For many municipalities, it is the single biggest budget item, so it's understandable that they would want to control costs to the extent possible. However, this has resulted in chronic understaffing at detachments across the country, essentially leaving it up to the members on the ground to carry the burden.
In 2009, I was recruited to work at our provincial headquarters in British Columbia. The position was leading the unit, which focused on police resourcing at detachments around the province. One of the goals was to review each detachment in the province every five years to ensure that they were adequately resourced for front-line service delivery. Prior to my arrival, the unit had just completed a study which identified that one Vancouver Island detachment was so under-resourced that it required 26 additional front-line members to address the gap.
This client services unit was supposed to include two NCOs to analyze data and prepare and present the findings, and five public servants to mine and gather the data from computer-based record systems. Only one of the five public servants was hired. The other positions were blocked and the funding reallocated to another project. It was a notable irony that the unit responsible to ensure detachments were adequately resourced was itself so under-resourced that it could not meet its own mandate. Had there been a collective agreement in place, with provisions to ensure minimum staffing levels, it is unlikely that this situation would have been allowed to occur.
Thank you. That concludes my remarks. I'll turn it over to Pat Mehain in British Columbia.
Good morning, Committee Chair and honourable members of Parliament.
My name is Patrick Mehain. I'm a director of the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association. I've been involved in the association movement my entire 18-year career. I was president of the B.C. MPPA for eight years. I sat as an executive on the CPA, and I'm one of the founding members of the MPPAC. I'm also one of the affiants in the Supreme Court challenge.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my concerns as they pertain to the significant shortcomings of Bill . While the Liberal government is ensuring the Supreme Court decision is complied with, the bill misses the true spirit of the decision: the absence of a fundamental onus found in collective bargaining in other agencies.
The bargaining restrictions found in Bill and the existing PSLRA are more restrictive than those found in other police forces across Canada. Many collective bargaining agreements deal with promotions, equipment, transfers, workplace conflict, etc. While my colleagues in the MPPAC have already touched on these issues, I'll speak about resourcing and health care.
Resourcing has always been an issue. Our municipal brothers and sisters refer to us as the “Kmart cops”—we do more with less. Comparing the cities of Vancouver and Surrey, we see that Vancouver has approximately 1,340 officers and polices 605,000 people, while Surrey has approximately 800 officers and polices 500,000 people. Resourcing directly impacts members' vacations, minimum staffing levels, workloads, and I would suggest job satisfaction.
Members are getting burned out, and their health, both physical and mental, is being impacted. Due to long-term illnesses, spots are left vacant, the spots are held out in detachments, and units are required to run with shortages. Treasury Board wants to convert the approximately 4,000 civilian members into public servants. If this is allowed to happen, it will undermine resources even further in the RCMP, as our civilians to do jobs that public servants cannot.
Provincial health care and workers' compensation is different from province to province. The RCMP is unique and requires a unique way to address these concerns. In B.C., we pay our basic medical premiums whereas members from other divisions do not. The Lower Mainland already has a difficult time filling vacancies, but the added costs associated with changes to our medical benefits have made it worse.
This is of course not the sole reason that it is hard to staff vacant spots in the LMD, but it definitely contributes: prescription changes, reduced benefits, health services inappropriately getting involved in members' treatments, and the alarming and concerning fact of the recent privacy breaches conducted by senior RCMP officers. Unfortunately, all too often, members do suffer long-term injuries. How will workers' compensation affect this? Will a transfer to B.C. be halted because a member is deemed ineligible by the WCB or vice versa? Simply lumping the RCMP under existing mechanisms does not work.
Since the Supreme Court of Canada decision, I have had mixed emotions. While collective bargaining is one of those things that I have fought 18 years for, Bill leaves a lot to be desired. In its current state, it does little to provide true collective bargaining, which is protected under section 2(d) of the Charter of Rights.
While I am thankful for this opportunity to share my concerns about Bill , without significant changes we will continue to see labour unrest and more court challenges, and the RCMP will continue to degrade in operational effectiveness as well as morale.
Good morning, Mr. Chair, committee members, ladies and gentlemen.
I am Staff Sergeant Paul Dupuis. I have been a member of the RCMP for 35 years. I have been involved in labour relations in the RCMP since 1993 as a representative of members. I have been a member of the Association des membres de la police montée du Québec (the “AMPMQ”) since 1981 and I was elected president in 2015.
I have experienced first-hand and been a witness to abuse of power by RCMP management, and a counterweight is needed. Protecting people against abuse of power is best achieved by making all working conditions subject to collective bargaining. I appear before you today to provide you with AMPMQ's point of view on Bill .
I will start by giving you an overview of the situation.
The members of the RCMP have been actively denied their right to freedom of association, in other words the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining, for decades. The Supreme Court of Canada in MPAO v. Canada, decided that this violation was unconstitutional and that remedial legislation was required. Bill provides a process for an association to acquire collective bargaining rights for members. It also includes provisions to regulate collective bargaining. However, Bill C-7 falls short on several levels.
I will now discuss the right to a meaningful collective bargaining process.
The Supreme Court described a meaningful collective bargaining process as one that “provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to determine and pursue their collective interests.” It rejected the current scheme that “does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns.”
While Bill does provide a process for certifying an association and having access to a collective bargaining process, it falls short on several levels, in particular by the restrictions it places on the content of collective bargaining.
Bill excludes important workplace matters of concern to RCMP members from collective bargaining, and therefore does not permit members to advance those workplace concerns free from management influence. What's more, these exclusions from collective bargaining go to the heart of members' workplace concerns. Matters that were specifically subject to management's failures and abuses are excluded.
Workplace concerns over health and safety and law enforcement techniques, including adequate protective gear and equipment, are critically important to members. I will cite the examples of the Mayerthorpe and Moncton tragedies. Inquiries into these tragedies underscored the same deficiencies in proper equipment and communications, even though nine years had passed between these two incidents. The RCMP failed the public, members' families, and the members themselves. This was not the first time that the RCMP failed to live up to its obligations concerning health and safety.
I will now discuss the issue of harassment.
Harassment was, and still is, a serious workplace concern that management has been unable or unwilling to resolve. Despite multiple studies and reports, harassment continues to be alive and well within the RCMP. For example, I refer you to the well-known Lebrasseur, Delisle, Smith, Gosselin and Sulz cases, as well as two pending class actions, several individual suits, and numerous internal harassment cases.
I will now discuss management abuse and the need for balance.
The courts, including the Supreme Court, have recognized the well-documented use of the disciplinary process and unfair labour practices by the RCMP to prevent unionization. In fact, I have been a victim of the RCMP's use of the disciplinary process to retaliate against me for my union activities. I have been subject to reprisals. The RCMP used disciplinary procedures against me for seven years. As it was determined that the disciplinary action against me was abusive due to its length and nature, the internal tribunal granted a stay of proceedings. At the same time, I also submitted grievances. After 10 years, my grievances have yet to be resolved.
This situation has had a negative impact on my career. Consequently, Canadians have lost the benefit of my services as a specialized investigator in financial crimes. During my career, I have witnessed abuses of power by management which clearly illustrate the need to strike a balance.
The disciplinary process has been repeatedly used to sanction members for exercising fundamental rights, including freedom of association and freedom of expression. There are a number of reported decisions concerning RCMP retaliations against my colleague and predecessor Gaétan Delisle. You have also heard the testimony of my colleague Peter Merrifield, whose case is still before the courts.
Demotions, dismissals, transfers, appraisals, probation and basic requirements are all vital concerns relating to our working conditions that management can and does use abusively against members who exercise their rights. Over my years of service as a members' representative, I have been witness to the abusive use of all of these working conditions against members, with devastating effect on them and their careers. The Duxbury, Brown and Robichaud reports confirm these abuses.
No credible evidence has ever been presented that would justify excluding these working conditions from collective bargaining on the basis that police services would be compromised without those exclusions. On the contrary, addressing members' concerns regarding these working conditions through collective bargaining is more likely to improve the quality of police services. The Supreme Court stated the following regarding collective bargaining for RCMP members:
||[...] it is not established that permitting meaningful collective bargaining will disrupt the stability of the police force or affect the public's perception of its neutrality.
||[...] The government offered no persuasive evidence to that effect. Empirical evidence tends to show the opposite [...]
More recently, before this committee, those who favour Bill have failed to provide any compelling argument for the proposed exclusions from collective bargaining. They have failed to assume their obligation to justify limiting RCMP members' fundamental rights.
My presentation will now address how to redress the imbalance in the employment relationship.
The Supreme Court recognized that laws and regulations that restrict the subjects that can be discussed in bargaining can disrupt the balance necessary to ensure the meaningful pursuit of workplace goals.
The Supreme Court also recognized a long-standing hostility on the part of RCMP management and successive Canadian governments to unionization in the force.
By excluding important workplace matters of concern to RCMP members from collective bargaining, Bill not only denies members the right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining, it also enshrines the imbalance between members and management by preserving absolute power over these matters by management.
In the past, management has not hesitated to abuse its absolute power over members. Bill , by limiting collective bargaining and limiting remedies against management abuse, fails to ensure that the current imbalance in the employment relationship is adequately remedied, as management retains absolute power over these matters.
We argue that grievances concerning the working conditions of RCMP members, even those not governed by the collective agreement, should be referable to an independent tribunal.
As for civilian members, they share a community of interests with regular members, yet they are excluded from Bill . They should be included.
Last Thursday, you heard the debate concerning the Government Employees Compensation Act. The reform to medical services for RCMP members as proposed in sections 40 and 42 of Bill should not be part of this bill. Rather, they should be negotiated at the collective bargaining table.
I will now discuss what should be done.
We ask that you remove the exclusions from collective bargaining that concern important workplace matters, specifically sections 238.19 and 238.22 as proposed, as has already been mentioned, to strike a real balance between RCMP management and members.
We also ask that you include civilian members under Bill , and that you remove sections 40 and 42 from the bill.
I am now ready to answer questions.
I think part of this goes back to the fact that there have been consistent and significant efforts on the part of the organization to restrict the amount of information that members get. What you're suggesting—a lack of interest in unionization—I think a lot of that is being driven by some of the middle management, senior NCOs who have come up, starting at my vintage or maybe earlier, who feel it's disloyal to want to have a unionized organization.
When I got involved with the association movement and the founding of the association of British Columbia, I was considered a radical, almost a communist, that I was advocating against management and wanted to overthrow the force. In that time I've seen the Chicken Little scenario trotted out repeatedly about how we're all going to be in chaos if the members of the RCMP get parity with the police forces across the country who have input into their pay and pension and benefits and working conditions. Of course, it's a lot of palaver.
I think that the vast majority of members in the smaller places still exist in an environment whereby disagreeing or confronting your NCO in charge, if it's a small detachment of five or six or ten people, runs the risk—whether they run the risk or think they run the risk—of being singled out and not getting vacation when they want it or not getting courses or falling out of favour with the person who can directly impact their day-to-day living. That may be driving some of that.
I think that after the Supreme Court decision came out in January last year, the message from the commissioner's office and senior management was that members would be updated and they'd be provided with a lot of information. Virtually no information has been provided to anybody other than the edict that you couldn't use the information systems, you couldn't have any meetings in the workplace about anything to do with unionization.
It's such a big organization, you can never get everybody into a room. That's one of the reasons it's taken so long to get us to this point. In cities, any police force can get a significant number of members to some kind of a meeting, whereas the mounted police are spread out across the whole country. How could you ever get everybody in one place and if you do have them all in one place, who's looking after the country? You can't do it. You're only ever going to get small portions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My name is Mark Rowlinson. I'm the assistant to the Canadian national director of the United Steelworkers. I've also been a practising labour lawyer for the union for about 20 years.
The United Steelworkers is one of the largest industrial unions in Canada, with about 225,000 members from coast to coast to coast. We're part of an international union that has about 800,000 members across North America. We represent a diverse membership in almost every part of the private sector, along with thousands of public sector workers in hospitals, nursing homes, universities, and among security guards. We also advocate on behalf of roughly 100,000 retirees and their families across Canada.
While many of our members work under provincial law regimes, we also represent about 25,000 members in the federal jurisdictions, including workers employed in airport security, transportation, energy, and telecommunications.
Labour legislation in all jurisdictions in Canada is important to our union, as it is to all labour organizations across the country. We are concerned about any legislation that may interfere with either the spirit or the substance of fundamental labour rights, like the right to join unions and the right to bargain collectively.
We're very grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today, as we're concerned about how the Government of Canada responds to and complies with the important Supreme Court of Canada decision in the MPAO case, which the Supreme Court issued a little over a year ago.
The MPAO decision was one of a series of decisions by our country's highest court that clarifies the scope of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights under the charter. We were a plaintiff in the SFL case that was issued a week after the MPAO decision, and we've long taken a great interest in how the charter and labour law regimes in Canada interact.
In MPAO, as the committee will be aware, the Supreme Court affirmed that freedom of association protects the right to join and form associations, to do so in pursuit of constitutional rights, and the right to join others to meet on more equal terms the power and strength of employers.
If I might pause for a minute, I want to read you an excerpt from the decision, where the Supreme Court noted, and I'll return to this:
|| Individual employees typically lack the power to bargain and pursue workplace goals with their more powerful employers. Only by banding together in collective bargaining associations, thus strengthening their bargaining power with their employer, can they meaningfully pursue their workplace goals.
It is precisely that set of rights that is protected under section 2(d) of the charter.
The Supreme Court continued, “The right to a meaningful process of collective bargaining is therefore a necessary element of the right to collectively pursue workplace goals in a meaningful way”, and “A process” or legislation, I would submit, “that substantially interferes with a meaningful process of collective bargaining by reducing employees’ negotiating power is therefore inconsistent with the guarantee of freedom of association enshrined in [section] 2(d)” of the charter.
We are here today to provide a few comments on Bill , and to express our concern that in some areas Bill grants the right to join a union and collectively bargain to RCMP employees and officers on the one hand, but on the other hand it also erodes that right through limits on association and the scope of bargaining.
I want to review a number of points where we have concerns, given that background about Bill .
First, is the configuration of the bargaining unit. In the bill under its present form, as the committee will be aware, civilian RCMP members are excluded from the bargaining unit. There is no justification, in our view, for excluding employees of the same employer from the bargaining unit, other than to erode the collective bargaining position of the union. In both federal and provincial jurisdictions across Canada, labour relations boards have for decades preferred broad-based, all-employee units.
While we agree with the bill's exclusion of officers in their capacity of management, the list of ranks that are considered officers is set by Governor in Council. The number of officers in each rank who are excluded, as prescribed by the Treasury Board, means the employer has essentially the exclusive power to decide who is included and excluded from the bargaining unit as an officer. This is an exception to the normal rule in Canadian labour relation regimes, which provides that managerial exclusions and other exclusions from the bargaining unit are determined by independent labour relations boards.
Second, and this is perhaps the one point I want to emphasize the most this morning, are the very vague and general limits on affiliation that are contained in Bill .
Under Bill , to be certified, an employee organization must be, among other things, “not affiliated with a bargaining agent or other association that does not have as its primary mandate the representation of police officers”.
We fully respect and understand the limit that the bargaining agent itself must be an organization that is primarily devoted to the representation of police officers; however, we are at a loss to understand this very general and vague point that the bargaining agent must not have any affiliation with other organizations. We submit that this is a serious infringement on freedom of association, and there are clearly less restrictive ways to deal with issues of the independence of the bargaining agent than this one.
We would refer the committee to the Ontario Police Services Act, which deals with this issue in a different way in that, for police unions in Ontario, the only limit to their ability to affiliate applies to individual members and prevents them from actually joining another union without approval. However, the Ontario Police Services Act appears to rightly allow collaboration and affiliation with members of other unions and other labour organizations.
This would seem, for example, to allow members of the RCMP union—should there be one—who are affiliated with other organizations to provide that union with advice, support, and so on and so forth, and would actually allow the police union to become a part of a broader movement and to seek the assistance of other organizations. We don't think that at all threatens the independence of the RCMP potential union and we think it is an important right for them. This could take the support in terms of one-off support for a particular campaign or initiative. For example, police unions across the country were very important in the campaign around Bill , which was introduced by the former government, and worked within the broader movement on those sorts of issues.
We are suggesting that this restriction on affiliation, again, is extremely general and will be very hard to understand by someone from outside the organization and from the broader labour movement.
Our union, for example, has a wide range of different relationships with different unions. We have strategic alliances with some unions, we collaborate with other unions, and we provide resources, whether that's use of our buildings or collaboration or training with other organizations. Again, it's not clear to us that such a broad restriction is necessary.
The third point I want to comment on, and only very briefly, is limits on the scope of collective bargaining in Bill . I know the committee has already heard a great deal about the limits on the scope of collective bargaining that are contained in the legislation, and I won't belabour the point other than to say that limiting the scope of collective bargaining, as the legislation does, in such a broad and pervasive manner, constitutes a significant infringement, in our view, on the rights of RCMP officers as enshrined in section 2(d) of the charter. We submit that the legislation is over-broad in precluding negotiation over transfers, promotions, discharges, and demotions; conduct, including harassment; the basic rights for carrying out the duties of an officer; as well as equipment matters.
Further, of course, Bill limits the outcome of binding arbitration. We understand and support the idea that collective agreements should be resolved by binding arbitration, but again, the fact that the arbitrator will be precluded from dealing with that wide range of issues in our view further reinforces the restriction and the possible infringement on section 2(d) of the charter. We would submit to you that it substantially interferes in their collective bargaining rights.
The fourth issue that I want to mention is the factors in the binding interest arbitration regime that is set forth for RCMP officers. Here Bill essentially provides that the factors that are already set out in the PSLRA to guide an arbitration board in imposing a collective agreement will also apply to the RCMP union, should there be one.
In particular, section 148 of the PSLRA, which was amended and implemented by the previous federal government, requires that the arbitration board consider:
||(a) the necessity of attracting competent persons to, and retaining them in, the public service in order to meet the needs of Canadians; and
||(b) Canada’s fiscal circumstances relative to its stated budgetary policies.
These provisions of the PSLRA were introduced, as I mentioned, by the previous Conservative government, and the fact that they've been maintained in Bill we think is problematic. The fact that the legislation requires an arbitrator to give preponderant weight to these two factors compromises the independence of an arbitrator and creates a built-in bias in the interests of the arbitration process by essentially requiring an arbitrator, rather than to act independently, to implement what amounts to government policy.
Bill imposes an additional constraint on the arbitration process in that it provides that the board must consider “the impact of the determination on the operational effectiveness of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police” in imposing collective agreement terms.
This requirement is unique to Bill and is not required for any other federal public sector employees. Given that RCMP members do not have the right to strike and the fact that bargaining impasses must be resolved by way of interest arbitration, this is a new factor, which unnecessarily and in our view inappropriately biases the interest arbitration process in favour of the employer.
I want to thank the committee members and the chair for this opportunity to assist you in your review of this very important bill to introduce the right to unionization and collective bargaining to RCMP members. In its way, it's really quite an historic moment. There have been efforts by men and women in the RCMP for over 50 years to unionize, and they have been consistently resisted by governments of the day. This is now a moment for RCMP officers to exercise these freedom-of-association rights. It's a very important bill for that reason.
So that you know my perspective on this, I'm a lawyer in private practice—a labour lawyer—and I have had the great honour and privilege of representing numerous RCMP officers from across the country in labour disputes over the years, in all the different provinces—or divisions, as they're established in the RCMP. I've dealt with disciplinary matters, promotional cases, harassment cases, whistle-blower cases, occupational injuries, duty to accommodate, and racial and sexual discrimination cases, all in the context of the RCMP. From that experience, I believe I have a pretty good sense of the recourse mechanisms under the RCMP Act that are available to all RCMP members. I want to offer my views on these to you.
The main issues I want to address are the exclusions, about which you've heard a lot, but I'll offer some insight on those as well as on the grievance system that you would have under this bill. It's quite complex now concerning where your recourse goes. Is it a disciplinary matter? Is it a collective agreement matter? Is it a promotional matter? There are different avenues that you have to follow. This, I think, makes recourse very difficult.
I can tell you that even before this bill, this was one of the more complex labour regimes that I have to contend with. I represent all kinds of federal public sector workers, from across the board—every department you can imagine. I represent CSIS officers, CSEC...so I have a sense, and the RCMP Act is very complex as it is right now.
The final issue is the workers' compensation matter. I have some views on that, and I'd like to offer them to you as well. I was going to address it last, but I'll address the workers' compensation one first, because I think the exclusions have been hit pretty well by the other presenters.
Right now, as you're no doubt aware from previous presentations, RCMP members are entitled to full pay from their employer while on sick leave, and the causality doesn't matter. Whether it is a workplace injury or some other kind of illness doesn't matter; they get their full pay. What this bill proposes to do in clause 40 of Bill is push all RCMP members onto different provincial compensation schemes across the country.
I want to say this right now. If you make any changes or recommendations for any changes to the bill, change this one. This one doesn't make sense, and here's why.
I reviewed what the ministers told you last week, suggesting that the approaches of the different provinces are reasonably consistent and that there are not big discrepancies between provinces. They also told you that this system seems to function well for federal public service employees, who are in the same way governed by provincial compensation schemes based on the province in which they're employed.
The RCMP are very different, for three reasons.
First of all, RCMP officers are involved in more physical work than other federal public service employees and are more prone to injuries on the job. I think that's something we can all understand and grasp.
Two, RCMP officers have mobility built into their jobs. They are assigned and are posted to locations of work across the country and are reposted again and again. You'll see many RCMP officers with even 20 years or 25 years of service who have worked in two or three provinces throughout their career, and some of them even more than that. That's very different from federal public service employees, who typically work in one location their entire lives and who moreover get to choose. If you're applying for a job in Ottawa with whatever agency—say, the CRA—or for a job with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Vancouver, for example, you know what provincial compensation scheme you're going to be subject to.
If you're an RCMP officer, you don't have the right to choose and you don't have that knowledge. You could well be moved—and many are—to different provinces throughout your entire career. I think that is a fundamental difference from the conditions of federal public service employees that really makes this unfair.
Here is the third and final reason why I say you have to take this out of the bill, and that is the differential coverage across the country. It is a patchwork. They are not reasonably consistent.
Under workers' compensation schemes, there is maximum income coverage, so you are covered only up to a certain level of income, and they are very different across the country. The low is $51,000, and that is in P.E.I. The high is in Manitoba with $119,000 of annual income.
An RCMP constable at the top of the band earns $82,000 a year. Of all the 10 provinces, only three would provide full coverage to that constable if he or she was injured on the job and was off work. A dramatic example.... I am from Saskatchewan, so I always enjoy the examples we can draw from Saskatchewan; it teaches the country a lot of things. Lloydminster, as many of you are aware, straddles the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. It is a really entertaining place for all kinds of reasons, but it also has two RCMP detachments. They are about two kilometres apart. I think one is on 47th Avenue on the Saskatchewan side, and the other is on 44th Street on the Alberta side.
In Saskatchewan, the maximum coverage for that member is $54,000 a year. In Alberta, it is over $90,000. It could well be the case that there is a very serious matter and RCMP officers from both detachments are called to a certain location. A terrible thing might happen and they both might be injured. Well, if you push these members on to the provincial compensation schemes, these two police officers, working side by side at the same incident, are going to have very different outcomes in what they get. The member who is posted to the detachment on the Saskatchewan side is going to earn, by my rough calculations, about $1,000 less per month than his or her colleague who is assigned or posted to the other side.
I wanted to highlight that. This is a bad idea and I think it is unfair to RCMP members. At a bare minimum, making this change right before you are about to see unionization, where an association might want to discuss or negotiate this with the employer, is a very bad idea.
I will turn to the other points I want to talk about, the exclusions. You have heard a lot about the exclusions. I will just hit on the points that I think are most significant, which are promotions and transfers, and harassment cases. These exclusions are not only a major issue due to the lack of free and meaningful collective bargaining, but they also push members into a very complex recourse system. In many cases, when you exclude these from the collective bargaining, they do not have the right of independent adjudication.
Under section 31 of the current RCMP Act, you go through internal grievance mechanisms. They do have adjudicators, but they are commissioned officers, superintendent or chief superintendent. When you are dealing with a situation where you are grieving the actions of a deputy commissioner or a commissioner—and I tend to get involved in cases that are more serious like that—you are going to a chief superintendent and saying, “Hey, can you overturn this decision of the commissioner?” Well, that is not going to happen very often.
The way this act works is that only collective agreement issues will go to the Public Service Labour Relations Board. When you combine that with all the exclusions, this really means that the only things you are going to see at the PSLREB are pay and comp issues. Some of the most important working terms and conditions that are so important to RCMP members are not going to be subject to that independent adjudication. I think that is a really big problem.
About promotions.... Reviews and studies over the last 20 years have repeatedly found that the views of RCMP members are that the RCMP promotional system lacks transparency and fairness. The Brown report from 2007, “Rebuilding the Trust”, said that the promotional system is “viewed almost universally as being ineffective, unfair and opaque.”
That was the Brown report in 2007, cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the MPAO judgment.
The RCMP did another report of its own recently, called “Gender-Based Assessment”, published in 2012. I noticed they just suddenly posted it last week for some reason. There, they did a review and survey of members. Those members said that one of their most serious issues is “The lack of fairness and transparency in the promotional processes”. Yet promotional processes are kept completely out of collective bargaining or the independent grievance adjudication system that you would have going to the PSLREB. They have to continue to grieve up.
Promotions, I would submit from my experience over the years, are seen as rewards to those who belong to a club, to those who are seen as loyal, to those belonging to certain cliques that happen to be in ascendency within the force, and I honestly say I think that if you would get any member, even a commissioned officer, over coffee or a drink and ask them, they will tell you the same thing: that's how it works.
It's based on loyalty more than anything, not fairness or merit.
Probably the thrust of some of these exclusions, like the transfers ones, is that the RCMP wants to reserve unto itself that they're still a paramilitary organization. If we tell you you're going to the front lines, or you're going to this remote community, that's where you're going. We need someone there. We don't need any talk-back. That's what's happening.
I think that's where it comes from, but I don't think there should be fear of that in the RCMP. For example, here's what a collective agreement provision could look like. You could say that, in posting a member, the RCMP will take into account the member's interests, career aspirations, and family issues. However, due to operational requirements, the member may be posted anywhere the force requires. In that context, if you're in the penalty box...people remember one of Commissioner Paulson's early comments about harassment.
This is why I get to this. If you don't have independent adjudication of the right to grieve, these assignments and postings can be used to harass people, essentially. You could grieve and say no, there's no reason for me to go to this posting, and what's the operational requirement? Then the force would be required to bring evidence and show to an independent decision-maker that here are the operational requirements, we only have this many people here and these people here, we're short here, and we need to post this person here. If they can do that, great, they win the grievance. If they don't, and if it's tainted in some way that some officer is trying to put the thumb on that member, or treat them unfairly, or put them in the penalty box, then labour adjudicators are pretty quick on that kind of stuff. They'd pick it out and say no, that's an unfair posting, and this person's not going to be assigned there.
That's how I think those kinds of grievances would be sorted. Obviously the management prerogative to assign or post people and understanding the operational requirements in the RCMP would be critical or paramount. I still think that having the right of grievance there, or at least collectively bargain the kinds of factors that would go into that, is something that I don't think the force needs to be afraid of.