Chilliwack RCMP Cpl. Lee Dyson and two other members wearing their police uniforms without the yellow stripes as they join the national movement to protest low wages. (Submitted)

Chilliwack Mounties join the ‘no stripe’ campaign to protest wages

Local RCMP officers among the latest to protest pay packages and right to collective bargaining

Twenty years ago, Lee Dyson joined the RCMP for the same reason many others did: history, tradition and the honour of wearing the famous red serge.

But the Chilliwack RCMP corporal is one among a growing movement across Canada fed up with being treated as if he’s a member of a second-class police force.

A larger number of Chilliwack RCMP officers are the latest to take off or cover up the distinctive yellow stripe on their uniform pants to protest not only lower pay packages but staffing levels and other benefits.

“We’ve never had an organization that spoke for us as a group of members,” Cpl. Dyson told the Progress. “There was a time during my service when it was said our pay package should come in at the average of the top three forces [in Canada].”

And for a time, it did.

“We’ve steadily slipped further and further behind,” he said.

The recent no-stripe movement began in North Vancouver and Saanich, and has quickly grown to forces across Canada. It’s the result of delays over years to change the way Mounties’ pay is assessed and if they can form a union.

In January 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the program in place to pay RCMP officers was unconstitutional and government was given one year to make changes to allow for collective bargaining. In Dec. 2015, the new government applied for a six-month extension, was given four months and in March 2016 Bill C-7 was introduced.

A senate committee made changes and Bill C-7 still hasn’t been finalized. In the meantime, a pay increase with no consultation with members was presented on April 5. That recommendation forwarded to the Treasury Board of Canada included 1.25 per cent retroactive to January 2015, 1.25 per cent retroactive to January 2016 and 2.3 per cent “market adjustment” retroactive to April 2016.

Not bad, according to Dyson, but the pay scale was already far behind other forces.

As of April 1, an RCMP first class constable salary was $86,110. That compares to $90,468 for BC Transit Police, $97,776 for Vancouver Police and $101,733 for Delta Police.

Next door at the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), the wage is $92,165. As Dyson puts it, Abbotsford has many of the same crime problems as Chilliwack has — many of the exact same perpetrators go back and forth — yet he could go across Boundary Road to work for the APD and make $6,000 a year more than he earns as a Chilliwack RCMP officer.

“If you want the best, they are not coming to us,” he said. “The disparity creates issues for the RCMP in relation to recruitment of new members and retention of experienced members.”

RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson posted a message on April 12 asking members to consider how the no-stripe movement may reflect on the RCMP in communities.

“We are lucky to enjoy broad support across the Canadian public,” Paulson wrote. “That precious trust and confidence in us is awful hard to rebuild once it has been eroded.”

The RCMP is the last police force in Canada not represented by a union, Dyson said, adding that the time has come. The push in recent weeks is for members to join the National Police Federation (NPF). By Wednesday afternoon, the NPF website said 9,604 individuals had signed up.

Dyson said locally one concern has been the detachment running at or below minimum staffing levels. He said because of vacancies, last summer during an extensive stint the Chilliwack RCMP force was at or below the levels with officers coming in on overtime.

He added that their beef is not with the city, who fund most of the RCMP costs, or with the provincial government or even with senior officers locally.

And while many Mounties have expressed concern over being reprimanded, Dyson said Supt. Deanne Burleigh, the officer in charge in Chilliwack, told officers she can’t condone the actions but there won’t be any repercussions. Paulson reiterated this in his April 12 message, stating there had been no “retribution or discipline for covering up or removing or changing the colour of our stripe.”

Not every RCMP officer is on board with the silent protest, but Dyson said most are and his watch is unanimous. He added, too, that the public shouldn’t notice anything about the officers or the service they provide beyond the missing stripes.

“We are not wearing jeans, we are not growing beards,” Dyson said.

“Public safety is still our number one priority.”

paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch

 

National Police Federation graphic compares RCMP wages to those of various police forces across Canada. (NPF-FPN.com)

Just Posted

Good things cooking at Barn Burner BBQ event this Sunday in Yarrow

Fifth annual event in Chilliwack raises funds for the Full Cupboard

Bail denied for alleged Chilliwack firearm thief convicted of similar crime in Alberta

Andrew Scott Charpentier charged with numerous offences after guns seized from Reece Avenue address

Figures reveal spike in highway traffic jams between Abbotsford and Langley

Nearly one in 20 westbound vehicles between Abbotsford and Langley clocked at under 60 km/h

Taser takedown in Chilliwack complex after incident gets violent

Male suspect became agitated under questioning and repeatedly punched an officer

Agassiz man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Most Read