New RCMP union hopes to start salary bargaining by mid-March
A pay increase would see policing costs rise in parts of the country
The head of the new union for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police says he hopes to be at the bargaining table in just a few weeks, kicking off a process that could see policing costs rise in much of the country.
National Police Federation President Brian Sauvé said RCMP members repeatedly have told the union — which, after a years-long fight, received certification back in July — that pay, resource levels and benefits are their top concerns.
This week, the federation will confirm its elected board and then appoint a bargaining committee, he said.
"We'll continue with a little bit of research and hopefully we'll be in the full throes of collective bargaining by mid-March 2020 and go from there," said Sauvé.
Since this is the first time the RCMP has had a union, it's not clear how long the bargaining process might take. But with more than 20,000 police officers serving with the RCMP, any kind of pay boost likely would come with added costs for all levels of government.
Beyond its federal policing obligations, the RCMP is the local police service in 150 communities across the country. The RCMP's contract policing is set up through agreements, in place until 2032, negotiated between the three levels of government.
The provinces and territories pay the bulk of the cost of their policing contracts — about 70 per cent — while the federal government covers the rest. Municipal RCMP contracts are based on a number of different cost-sharing scenarios based on a community's size and the date it first signed a policing agreement with the RCMP.
According to the RCMP's latest figures, last updated in 2016, a constable makes between $53,000 and $86,110, while a staff sergeant can make between $109,000 and just over $112,000.
The contract model has come under pressure in recent years.
The city of Surrey, B.C., home of the country's largest RCMP detachment, is in the process of severing ties with the RCMP and moving to an municipal police force by 2021, despite the likelihood of incurring extra costs. Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum campaigned on the pitch, arguing an independent force would provide more specialized and accountable services for Surrey.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also has mused about ending his province's contract with the Mounties.
Sauvé said many RCMP members across the country feel overworked, and that fatigue is undermining their morale and mental health.
"I think the biggest thing we could do to solve the problem is maybe hire more cops," he said. "That's a hard problem but an easy solution."
The anticipated bargaining session was included in the new mandate letter for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, whose portfolio includes the RCMP. The minister was instructed to "support the president of the Treasury Board in building a relationship and bargaining in good faith with the newly formed RCMP union."
A spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat said the government is committed to negotiating with the union "in good faith."
"Out of respect for the collective bargaining process, we will not comment on negotiations," the statement continued.
The road to the bargaining table started in early 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a law that specifically prevented Mounties from unionizing. The court ruled the law violated RCMP officers' charter right to freedom of association.
RCMP officers had been barred from forming a union since the 1960s, when other federal public servants gained the right to collective bargaining. It was one of the only police forces in Canada with that restriction.