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Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
Reputation: 104
votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 10:15 pm    Post subject: man... talk about feeling conflicted... Reply with quote

Justice Ian McDonnell made a very interesting decision on April 7th and it'll be interesting to see what falls out of it. You see, Justice McDonnell struck down the part of the RCMP Act.

A bit of background... The RCMP, for the past 90 years, is been exempted by federal law from unionization. The exemption was described in the RCMP Act which is the federal legislation which governs and empowers the Mounties.

Back in 1974, in response to a near uprising within the ranks over poor wages and working conditions as well as a Royal Commission recommending change, RCMP executives came up with the notion having regular members from within the ranks, elected by their peers, to act someone like union shop stewards... interceding between the brass and the dross, so to speak. This group of officers were called the Staff Relations Representative Program.

The SRRP was plagued with problems from the beginning, mainly because those elected were given special "perks" as part of their position... and given no means to push back when RCMP executives were being unreasonable. To make matters worse (if that's possible) when Mounties talked to an SRR, their conversations were not considered to be private by the RCMP so any notes which the SRR took could be seized as part of an internal investigation.

Ask yourself if you would like to talk to someone for advice knowing what you said could be related back to the person you're complaining about...

Most police forces are unionized, although in many cases, the union isn't a traditional union; it's an association which bargains on behalf of the officers for wages. Police are essential services so there is no expectation of a right to strike which is the hallmark (as well as the first and last resort) of most unions.

Some years ago (during the Chretien years) a number of alternative RCMP Associations sprang up across the country. The three largest (go figure) were in BC, Ontario and Quebec. These groups, formed by disgruntled RCMP officers, tried to solicit other RCMP officers to join their ranks with a view to providing a kind of "together we're strong" mentality to be able to confront lousy managers, to address bad policy, to work together to improve the workplace.

Unfortunately, the Associations had limited success. This was partly due to regional differences, egos, disagreements between the Associations and a general mistrust amongst the members of the motives of the associations. Most cops end up dealing with labour disputes at some point in their career so they get to see the ugly side of unions, up close and personal... which generally means they're not interested in paying union dues...

About 10 years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the exemption from unionization was constitutional. Long, round-about story, I know...

About two years ago, the RCMP Association of Ontario, in cooperation with the RCMP Association of BC (keep in mind, these associations have no official standing with the organization), began pushing for another angle. They asserted the SRR Program itself, as unconstitutional and the RCMP was denying it's membership any bargaining rights whatsoever.

In the meantime, last December (as I mentioned) the Treasury Board arbitrarily overturned the pay package which they're previously agreed to and signed off on. They went so far as to introduce legislation to support that decision... although it was more wide-sweeping than just the RCMP. The SRR Program is currently going to the Supreme Court of Ontario, asking if the Treasury Board, by this action, breached the agreement which is, after all, a contract. Although it was not negotiated in the traditional sense, it was a signed agreement...

Back to the original subject... Justice McDonnell has ruled that the SRR program is unconstitutional and, in doing so, struck down the section of the RCMP Act which prevents unionization. In his decision, the Justice spoke of the fundamental tenets of labour law including the right to negotiate or, failing that, the right to binding arbitration.

So now my conflicts...

I don't like Justices inventing "rights" arbitrarily. These are not human rights issues... they're points of law. I wish we could find another word other than "rights" for such descriptions.

I don't like unions... I have been in the uncomfortable position of dealing with screaming unionists and I don't think my organization would be improved by having such antics foisted on us.

That being said, the Brown Task Force described the executive of the RCMP as being "tragically broken" and made nearly 50 recommendations. It's been over a year and, despite two "glowing" reports to the minister responsible, I don't see much evidence of substantive change in the commissioned ranks.

Example? The internal email from the Commissioner about Justice McDonnell's decision very carefully avoided the word "union" and didn't mention the exemption had been struck down, preferring instead to describe the decision as meaning that the SRR Program was unconstitutional... and saying they were studying the decision to decide how to react...

I don't feel underpaid but I know we're having a hard time retaining RCMP members who are at retirement age. Having their wage package arbitrarily tossed in the dustbin caused a wave of retirements... and it'll only get worse...

So... I'm feeling conflicted... Should I be happy to hear the useless SRR program is being threatened? Should I be angry to think the Associations are trying to push for a union? Should I look forward to substantive change or should I fear the change will be for the worse?

sigh....

-Mac
FF_Canuck





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 3360
Reputation: 73.4
votes: 17
Location: Southern Alberta

PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that a more effective Association, may, in this case, not necessarily be a bad thing... Due to the nature of essential services, and the nature of employees, it's been my experience that the associations representing emergency service workers tend to be fairly positive. I'd still prefer not to be unionized myself, but what can you do?
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
Reputation: 104
votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FF_Canuck wrote:
I think that a more effective Association, may, in this case, not necessarily be a bad thing... Due to the nature of essential services, and the nature of employees, it's been my experience that the associations representing emergency service workers tend to be fairly positive. I'd still prefer not to be unionized myself, but what can you do?

Given the entrenched nature of the management problems in the RCMP (as articulated in the Brown Task Force and Duxbury Reports), positive change which affects the nature of the relationship between the upper and lower ranks would be wonderful... but my cynical nature when it comes to anything to do with unions makes me cringe at the thought of unionization. Hell, most SRRs aren't worth talking to and they don't have an ounce of power!!

Strangely enough, the most recent Duxbury Report (came out just before the Brown Task Force report) described the organization as being highly resistant to change, especially at the upper ranks. She suggested the newly minted Commish should be given a good budget for buyouts so he could "persuade" a number of dinosaurs to take their slide into the tarpits with good grace. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have happened.

The Brown Task Force made nearly 50 recommendations and supposedly the Powers That BE are working on the problems but from where I'm sitting, they're spinning their wheels. I know a couple of the upper rankers who are supposedly spearheading the Change Management Team and they're dinosaurs with a fresh coat of paint. Maybe a union isn't such a bad idea... UGH!!

-Mac
FF_Canuck





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 3360
Reputation: 73.4
votes: 17
Location: Southern Alberta

PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, sounds like early retirement options would be a good way out the fossils. I've heard some interesting suggestions from some of the guys I talk to, like requiring 10 years as grey shirt, in a contract province, before you can even think of going white, or moving every possible part of the HQ to Regina and keeping only liason offices in Ottawa. Both seem like good ideas to me.
Mac





Joined: 02 Sep 2006
Posts: 5500
Reputation: 104
votes: 35
Location: John Baird's riding...

PostPosted: Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

FF_Canuck wrote:
Yeah, sounds like early retirement options would be a good way out the fossils. I've heard some interesting suggestions from some of the guys I talk to, like requiring 10 years as grey shirt, in a contract province, before you can even think of going white, or moving every possible part of the HQ to Regina and keeping only liason offices in Ottawa. Both seem like good ideas to me.

At the very least, they need to make Ottawa postings rotational so folks don't have a chance to turn into a politician instead of a police officer. When I watch the supposed guiding minds of the Force counting ceiling tiles (the easiest way to estimate the size of an office) and squabbling over who gets what office, it doesn't help my confidence in their abilities...

-Mac
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man... talk about feeling conflicted...

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