RCMP protest gains steam
‘Yellow stripe’ movement created in response to low pay increases for Mounties
OTTAWA— Two hours after Commissioner Bob Paulson warned the RCMP against protesting over a disappointingly low pay increase, a knot of Mounties unfurled a banner on Parliament Hill in support of a nascent would-be union and joined the “yellow stripe” protest. It’s a movement that’s taken off. Many Mounties are using duct tape to change the colour of the iconic yellow stripe on their uniform pants. Some have torn it off or are blocking it out completely. Other Mounties are simply wearing blue tactical cargo pants that don’t have the stripe but are uniform-issue clothing.
The demonstration by the centen- nial flame lasted less than three minutes over the lunch hour.
But it was a huge step for Mounties under a standing order not to talk to media without permission, and whose top commander says the uniform protest undermines efforts to build a respectful workplace, risks souring relations with the government ‘employer’ on the eve of unionization, and could erode public trust.
Other RCMP managers object that it is disrespectful of the uniform and is a risk to public safety.
“It’s not a safety issue, it’s not disrespectful; it’s just a show of solidarity,” countered Cpl. Dennis Miller, who works with the cadet field training in the national capital region and is organizing for the National Police Federation. Miller said the uniform the NPF is asking police officers to don is “the blues” worn by many units already. Others on the Hill echoed that.
“It’s galvanized the membership across Canada,” said a retired RCMP officer now working as a reservist on the Hill. “There’s actually a sense of morale coming up, an esprit de corps, pride, togetherness. The indecision is kind of fading away.”
The yellow stripe protest began in a North Vancouver detachment. Cpl. Bryan Mulrooney came up with the idea about a month ago as a way to boost support for the NPF.
Although RCMP brass had disbanded the in-house labour relations body, eliminated the pay council that used to negotiate salary and benefits, and ended payroll deductions for an employees’ legal fund, there was little union fervour until now.
Then the Liberal government announced last week it would give the RCMP a slight retroactive pay increase in line with the broader public service (1.25 per cent for 2015 and 2016; and a 2.3-per-cent “market adjustment” for 2016). The NPF and others say it still leaves the RCMP 62nd out of 80 on the police pay scales in Canada.
That’s when the yellow-stripe protest — and the NPF’s membership drive — took off. Suddenly, NPF membership rolls zoomed from 4,500 last Thursday to more than 9,500 by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, another group — the Mounted Police Professional Associ- ation of Canada — is struggling to recruit support, refuses to release its roll numbers, and moved to reverse its initial opposition to the yellow-stripe protest. A separate Quebecbased group is seeking to represent francophone members in Quebec but the NPF is emerging as the lead representative body with more than half of uniformed rank-and-file nationally signed on.
Cpl. Dennis Miller, a Mountie with the National Police Federation, took part in a protest to support demands for better pay, equipment and resources.