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Canadian police from across country joining forces, removing yellow stripes from uniform in protest

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Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers are going against the grain to make sure their voices are heard at the highest levels — they’re removing the iconic yellow stripe from their uniform trousers.

The federal government is showing no signs of giving into Mounties’ concerns regarding pay, staffing levels and working conditions.

Although the federal government announced its decision in Vancouver last week to a new pay structure with a 4.8 per cent increase, Mounties began removing their stripes citing the pay structure was below expectation.

According to CBC News Canada, Sgt. Scott Fefchak, detachment commander in Moosomin, Sask., said Mounties are very displeased.

“What’s going on is absolutely unprecedented, and I think for the first time in history we’re seeing members from coast-to-coast-to coast collectively showing displeasure toward a number of issues before us,” he said.

Fefchak says Mounties are facing more than just pay issues.

“It’s not uncommon for members to be having 300 or 400 hours a month on-call,” he tells CBC News. “It’s cumulative stress that comes from always being on and not having the work, life balance that we’re being told we have to try and achieve, but under the circumstances, it’s really difficult to achieve due to the lack of manpower.”

Fefchak says removing the iconic yellow stripe is more than symbolic gesture. He tells CBC News it’s a direct rules violation and punishable under the RCMP Act. However, he contends leaders can’t afford to send anyone home because detachments are already so poorly manned.

The Mounties are also receiving support from administrative support personnel.

In Halifax, where Staff Sgt. Lisa Stuart doesn’t wear a uniform to work, she using creativity to support the protest by crafting yellow label ribbons.

“My 10-year-old daughter and I spent about two hours yesterday making ribbons using the yellow stripes from the [old] pair of pants — and I made about 20 for RCMP members in my unit,” she tells CBC News.

Stuart isn’t making light of the subject saying she’s concerned about the future of the RCMP and that she’s proud Mounties have come up with a collective way to express themselves about training, equipment, harassment, pay and benefits.

“We are falling way behind other police forces. We can’t even attract new applicants into the force. They had a recruiting session a couple months ago and only two people showed up,” she tells CBC News.

Both Fefchak and Stuart said they felt compelled to speak out after Sgt. Chris Backus, with B.C.’s Sunshine Coast detachment, first spoke up late last week.

Although senior management warned Backus not to do any more interviews, he talked to CBC News Monday.

“We’re here now to tell Canadians, and most importantly (Public Safety Minister) Ralph Goodale, the Treasury Board and the federal government of Canada respectfully now, go back into that room that you just came out of last week and re-crunch those numbers to come up with a pay package that is not completely insulting,” Backus said in his interview with CBC News.

The Public Safety Manager says Mounties have every right to express themselves.

“From my perspective, the critical thing is to make sure that the communities that the RCMP police are safe, and that the RCMP themselves are safe,” Goodale told CBC News. “They will take the action that they think is appropriate to express their perspective. And RCMP management, I’m sure, will respond in a measured way.”

Goodale says he stands by the pay package put forward last week.

“The increase is significant. It’s retroactive over a two-year period, which means there will be very substantial back pay that will be paid going back to, in some cases, 2015,” he told reporters at a Monday question and answer session.

Fefchak said Goodale’s position disappointing.

“I’ll just speak for myself here. It’s disappointing not to hear something from one of our leaders that is meaningful and that tells us, ‘Guys we get it.’”

UNION AS A SOLUTION

Canada’s Supreme Court recognized the Mounties’ right to join an association more than two years ago. Since then, the government has introduced Bill C-7, which sets a collective bargaining framework for the RCMP. But movement on the unpopular bill has stalled since the Senate gave it a major overhaul in June ’16, reports CBC News.

During the last several days, thousands of Mounties have signed up with the National Police Federation. CBC News reports at last count, almost 9,000 people had joined, which means the group has more than enough members to file an application for certification with the Public Service Labor Relations Board.

The National Police Federation is in a holding pattern waiting to see the Senate’s next move.

CBC News reports co-chair Brian Sauvé said the federation is holding back to see what the Senate does this week with Bill C-4, proposed legislation that would restore union certification procedures axed in 2015 that make it significantly easier to certify a new public service union.

The bill is stuck in Senate for its third and final reading and conservative senators have repeatedly adjourned debate on the proposed legislation.

“If they do get that through, then we wait for that bill to have royal assent, and we file once that’s in place, which eliminates the need for a mandatory vote because we’re going to be over 50-percent support,” Sauvé tells CBC News. 

 

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