RCMP members lobby government to reverse wage rollback
'Our members are very, very disgruntled'
A unilateral decision to cut a promised raise for RCMP members could have implications for the force's attempts to attract and retain members, about 40 Mounties said on Parliament Hill on Wednesday.
"[The Conservative government] come across as the law-and-order government but they're not supporting the major arm of the law enforcement in the country, which is surprising to us," said Staff Sgt. Bob Meredith. "It's confusing to us. We don't understand it."
In June, the federal government committed to a 3.5 per cent raise for RCMP members in 2009 followed by a two per cent hike in 2010.
But in December, without consulting the RCMP, the Treasury Board cut the raise to 1.5 per cent for both years. It puts the members in line with the wages paid to all other public service unions.
With the rollback, the RCMP now ranks at about 34th in terms of pay out of Canada's 80 police forces with 50 members or more. An RCMP constable in his first year earns about $46,000.
The reduced raise could mean it will be harder to retain older Mounties and to attract new officers, Meredith said.
About 3,500 Mounties are on the cusp of retirement.
"I think they're being treated the same as all other civil servants," Conservative MP Gary Breitkreuz told CBC News.
Meredith said RCMP members have been emailing and phoning their MPs about the issue for weeks. A delegation of 40 members was sent to Ottawa on Wednesday to directly present the issue to elected representatives on Parliament Hill.
"We understand that times are tough but this is about trust as well and right now that trust has been broken and our members are very, very disgruntled by that," Meredith said.
Some RCMP members have set up a website, Callforbackup.ca, with the support of the RCMP Staff Relations program and the Mounted Police Members' Legal Fund, to press the government on the issue.
According to the website, the rollbacks won't just make it more difficult to attract new recruits, but could ultimately have implications for Canada's public safety.
NDP MP Jack Harris pressed Treasury Board President Vic Toews on the issue during question period on Wednesday.
"How is it this prime minister has millions of dollars to stack the unelected Senate with Conservative friends but not enough for an RCMP wage hike that they were granted by Treasury Board last June?" Harris asked.
Toews said in the current economy, cuts are necessary.
"Everyone is being asked to do their fair share to manage government expenditures," he said.
That shouldn't mean breaking promises, Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said.
"There was a promise and a commitment made and is now been broken and I think that the government is taking advantage of the fact that the RCMP does not have a union and really steamrolling over them," Holland said.
The Mounties have filed an application with the Federal Court to review the decision to quash the raise.
Force members can't unionize and compensation changes are determined by a five-member RCMP Pay Council, which then takes the package to the Treasury Board for approval.