The reason I started the PID Program last summer was to work on my Plan B for life. I needed to make some changes in my life and I felt this was a starting point. Part of the reason for this was the lack of change that was happening in job. I have a member with the RCMP for almost 19 years now and the working conditions have been horrible. Further to that there was no recourse for us. There was no voice to represent the almost 18,000 members as we were not permitted to have a union. Several years ago court proceedings started which after several appeals went to the Supreme Court who decided in our favour. But there were limitations that we were not able to join existing unions and we had a year to get it organized. Of course that year goes by and little was accomplished. The government gave us a 6 month extension. We had 3 groups that could represent us, NPF, MPPAC, and the AMQ. Further we were not allowed to use the RCMP email system to discuss any union business. The set up was designed to fail us as we could not communicate and we were all divided. Eventually someone creates a Facebook Page for RCMP members and there were about 8200 members in the group. Unfortunately this just created a venue for arguments back and forth, people complaining about working conditions, management, delays. We were mostly divided between the NPF and MPPAC approximately 4000 members per group. And a year goes by – nothing happens. We are no further ahead. Members were tired and frustrated when they see their counterparts working in the exact same roles and years of service that had 2 officers per car; all the equipment they needed; making $20,000 / year more; no man power concerns. The RCMP members started jumping ship and going to other police forces across Canada because there seemed like no hope. I am overworked and there is no one to turn to help with caseloads. Across Canada was the same thing. Members working in Isolated Posts and not getting any relief; Watches working below their designated minimums numbers required, in Vernon for example we are 10 members to a Watch with our minimums at 5. There are shifts were 3 members would be on shift. Then you try to call in members who are on their days off to get to minimums and people burn out quickly. Caseloads of 50 files where 20 – 25 files are considered manageable. Members have equipment issues or lack of kit because it’s back ordered. Or vehicles that need to be taken out of use but because we don’t have proper staff who prep the new vehicles, there is a 2 year wait list for changing vehicles. And the list goes on and there has been nothing we could do about it. There have been some members who have been sitting on the fence waiting to see what the pay increase would be like. The RCMP were told at least 15 years ago (I believe) that Canada’s national police force would be in the top 3 for pay and benefits. We were never in that rank and over the years we have dropped further down the list to the point that we were like 76 out of 82 police agencies in Canada. Again, we did not have a union to represent us and no way management cared – we were stuck. The last few months were started to see more members leave for other police forces. There were at least 86 members leave the RCMP in B.C. alone. I had a Victim Services worker tell me that her Daughter wanted to join and asked me if I would talk to her. My response was “Do you want her to become a member?” and she said, “yes” then I replied that she best find someone else for her daughter to talk to. We started to make strong demands to the NPF and MPPAC to join forces so we could hold an election but at least start the process to become a union. They refused to talk to one another for several weeks – a lot of animosity between these two groups, between members, between management and members…but we could not speak about it. It’s been so entrenched in us as a “Military” upbringing if you will that we comply and follow orders and if you stepped out of line then you were disciplined.
Then a week ago, the government released the information about the pay increase. And everyone was so disappointed, angry and discouraged even more – if that was at all possible. This was a slap in the face. The next day North Vancouver RCMP rallied together to protest by taking the yellow stripe off their pants, which is a code of conduct action. A few weeks prior there had previously been some rumblings on the Facebook page about taking action like this but no one took action. But last Thursday was the day. North Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast RCMP started a movement.
Further the removal of the yellow stripe, Sgt Chris Backus (starts at 8 min mark) of the Sunshine Coast took further risk by speaking out to the media. Chris was amazing. He spoke the words of what ever member was feeling but did not have the courage to speak out to media with. He put his career on the line for the sake of the other 18,000 members. He was very well spoken; professional and respect but also clearly spelled out the issues. This just sent a huge wave through the members. The Facebook Page was alive and cheering for Chris and Bryan from North Van who started this.
On Friday Chris did a second interview with media, where the final question posed to him was with respect to him possibly getting fired over speaking out to the media. Chris’s response was: “I will die on this hill”. Of course #Iwilldieonthishill became very popular amongst the members. This yellow stripe movement lit a fire under members asses, gave us some form of hope.
Then… the MPPAC decided to release a letter on their website telling members the better not participate in the movement and do not take your yellow stripes off your pants and that if anyone was aware of a Commissioned Officer who was supporting the movement – that they should be reported. It was a crazy letter. It was the absolute worst thing anyone could have said to us at that very moment. Everyone started to leave the MPPAC to join the NPF who quickly released their opportunity and posted supporting comments to the yellow movement. Members who had been sitting on the fence were now joining the NPF too. We could see the membership counter climbing – it was very exciting. There was so much talk on the Facebook page about spreading the word. A member was signing up for the NPF site every 30 seconds over the weekend. There were about 4000 members Thursday and by Sunday morning the NPF climbed to 7200. By Monday morning at around 11 am we reached 9000 members which was the magic number for the 50 + 1 for the NPF to sign up as union representation to the RCMP.
As you can see members from across Canada have joined in solidarity to protest the work conditions and pay / benefits. Unfortunately most media coverage has been on the pay issue which is not the whole issue – it was the “straw that broke the camels back” but not the sole reason by any means.
As I am in a plan clothes position I was not able to remove the stripe off my pants as I do not wear a uniform. So I took the yellow stripe off my work pants and made ribbons for the members in my unit to wear which is also happening across Canada.
Today we have almost 10,000 members signed to the NPF which is just amazing. It was a crazy few days for the RCMP members to which History was made in the organization.
We still have a long way to go and this is far from over. But this past weekend saw a change occur in 4 days that we have been trying 2 years (+ 15 years) to get to this point.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I know not everyone will agree and fair enough. We should never be too quick to Judge without having walked a mile in that person’s shoes. I believe that the public should do “ride alongs” with police so they have a full understanding of what is happening in their community. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that if people did ride alongs they would never object to a tax increase to pay for more police officers.
Thanks for reading….