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RCMP Change: Management Won’t,You Must!!

Jan 09

As you know the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has recently granted the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) leave to appeal the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal.  The SCC may very well rule that you do have the right to choose the manner in which you wish to associate, and to collectively bargain with your employer.  Why would this be of interest to a psychologist?  The answer to the question is, that the brand of psychology I practice brings to the usual individual, group, family, and organizational modes of treatment a focus on social justice and human rights issues within the political arena.  Along with mental health professionals who practice in areas including Women’s rights, Aboriginal rights, the rights of Ethnic Minorities, Lesbian – Gay – Bisexual rights and Peace work, I call for increased social justice action in my work.  Hand in hand with these mental health professionals I have taken the position that a more active approach is often necessary to secure the rights of some oppressed, or disadvantaged groups (in this case, the RCMP’s non-commissioned personnel).

My concern is that the Division Staff Relations Representative Program (DSRRP), the illusion of member representation, has been used to pacify you since its inception in 1974.  (The members who act as SRRs could be well meaning, but they are hopelessly compromised as they are paid by management!).  The DSRRP claims to put “members first”.  They profess to have your best interests at heart.  Did you know they used your Mounted Police Members’ Legal Fund (that you likely contribute to every paycheck) to push an anti-MPPAC message on Parliament Hill?  They also used your money to fund a survey of uninformed Canadians as to whether they thought you should “unionize”.  Did you know that SRRs represent all members including “white shirts”?  Did you know that one member of the legal fund is not able to take action against another using legal fund support?  Do you think that “white shirts” based upon the foregoing view the legal fund as cheap insurance?  Did you know even though you are a member of the fund, in good standing, with a supportive legal opinion from the labour lawyer used by the fund, you could be denied funds because you decline to reveal your entire work history to those who manage the fund (the DSRRs)?  Does any of this sound like “members first to you?”

You may soon have the opportunity to vote for an association that resembles the police associations that most of your provincial and municipal brothers and sisters belong to.  The work related issues you deal with are no different than those encountered by municipal/provincial police persons.  Your association would address issues such as salary, shift schedules, overtime, training, vacation, promotion, performance, grievances, pensions, and health care.  It would support binding arbitration, (it would not support the right to strike!).  Unlike the existing DSRRP your association would not represent or be unduly influenced by management.  As noted above the DSRRP expounds the motto, “Members First”.  Upon reading this any one of you would be forgiven for asking, “which ones, management or the workers, and how can you represent both?”  Under a new system of employee relations, management would be held to a much higher standard of accountability.  Are you looking for a way to address RCMP dysfunction?  Your association would move you up the continuum of power within the organization and put you in a better position to do so.  If management won’t do it, you must!  There are more of you than there are of them, and a recent Ipsos-Reid Poll suggests that much of the country is sympathetic to your plight.

Several weeks ago I wrote an article for this blog.  In that article I told the story of the drunk who looked unsuccessfully for the keys he had dropped in the street.  When his neighbour came along to help, he asked if it was on “this spot” under the street lights where the keys were dropped.  The drunk responded in the negative, explaining that he had dropped them a few metres away from the light, but it was too dark back there to look for anything.  This charming little story highlights beautifully the folly in maintaining any kind of employee relations system that resembles the DSRRP.

I’m sure you can see how absurd the drunk’s strategy was.  If you can’t, then you too are looking in the wrong place for an employee relations process that will actually represent you effectively.  You won’t find it looking in the same place members have been looking since 1974 (when the DSRRP was the only choice on Commissioner Nadon’s ballot).  The DSRRP was offered to you primarily to prevent  you from “unionizing”

The present system (i.e. DSRRP) is not only unconstitutional (ruling by Justice MacDonnell, Ontario Superior Court, 2009) it is ineffective.  It has been around for nearly 40 years as I write this.  Yet in 2004 a management scholar, tasked with looking at workplace issues, within the RCMP, suggested that for many regular and civilian members “their job is making them sick”.  Her data showed that compared to the general public, employees of the RCMP report higher levels of job stress, depressed mood, burnout, role overload, and difficulties balancing work and family.  She went on to say, in a 2007 follow-up study, that there was no reason to believe that the situation with respect to the key indicators of physical and mental health, noted above, would have changed since 2004.  Moreover, she added that nothing was likely to change until the RCMP underwent a transformational (radical) change.  This has not happened and sure enough, on your 2009 Employee Satisfaction Survey 70% of the agree/disagree statements had worsened over the previous 2 years!

Don’t these sound like employee relations issues to you?  I’ll wager that if you aren’t suffering one of these key indicators, you know at least one of your watch-mates who is!  Where has the DSRRP been all these years?

The strategy used by the above mentioned drunk is sometimes called the “more of the same” formula.  It is deceptively simple, and has been one of the most effective recipes for disaster on this planet.  Over the course of hundreds of millions of years it has been responsible for the extinction of entire species (remember the dinosaurs?).  What makes it so effective is the stubborn and unyielding retention of solutions to problems that have absolutely no chance of working.

When we have problems, we look for solutions.  Sometimes our solutions don’t work; maybe they’re outdated, maybe they’re inappropriate, or maybe just plain ineffective.  Now, for reasons that are not completely understood we, as well as some other species, consider our (ineffective) solution to the problem as final and valid for ever.  This, of course, among other things will blind us to the fact that there are a number of other possible, feasible, and perhaps even better solutions – that likely have always existed.

This blindness has a powerful effect:  first, it makes the original solution (e.g. DSRRP) more and more useless while the situation (your rights as a worker) becomes more and more hopeless; second, the increasing misery coupled with the strong belief in the original solution leaves only one conclusion – we must do more of the same.  And of course, by doing more of the same we get more of the same misery.  Are you getting the picture?  Don’t make this mistake.  There is another possible, feasible, and better solution to the misery you experience in your workplace (and beyond).  Can your municipal/provincial brothers and sisters be wrong?  And remember, you get what you pay for.  You pay nothing for the DSRRP and you get nothing from it!

In closing here’s what I will do for you.  As many of you seem so disinterested in taking responsibility for your own working conditions, I will give you the recipe for continued misery within the RCMP.  First, continue to believe that the Force will look after you (whether it is the DSRRP or the new Workplace Health and Wellness Unit)… and if it doesn’t…. continue to abdicate responsibility for yourself by waiting and doing nothing.  Second, under no circumstances doubt the first belief.

Dr. Mike Webster, R.Psych.

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4 Comments
  1. john smith permalink

    Dr. Webster has been around for a long time. If anyone doubts what he is saying then ask me. A recently retired regular member I, like many others, chose to ignore senior management and tried to make the members lives under my command a little more tolerable. I failed. I personally dislike failure. I personally am not adversarial and dislike constant confrontation. Having said this, it was evident in my workplace that all I did, was deal with adversity and confrontation. And guess what?
    Senior managers disliked me to the point of attacking the very members I was in charge even after I retired. The attacks were always followed by, “you can thank your old boss for that…” Go figure, that the men and women I stood up for now have to suffer management’s wrath because I was their leader and resisted the almighty “white shirts”.

    I am not and have never been a “yes” man. I know when to let go of matters but here is a little story of one I dared to let go of believing in the DSRRs and Senior Management.

    Several members under my command had gone to a domestic dispute with violence. Long story short, O.C. (pepper-spray) was ultimately used, justifiably, by my members as matters had deteriorated with violence towards the attending members.

    Once everything was settled down, no one, including the arrested person, suffered any injuries and the arrested person was returned to the office for arrest procedures. This individual had been a handful for the members but in the end everything went very well.

    This incident wrapped up at the end of shift and members were actually working for free not charging anyone for overtime. Two members were waiting to turn in their radios and were releasing a little friendly banter while the oncoming shift were also getting their radios.

    In a joking manner the banter led to one of the members removing his (what he believed was empty) can of O.C. spray and let off a puff of spray. This was a total accident as the member believed his can was empty. Stupid yes…… inappropriate perhaps….. but certainly not an incident that would later lead to a code of conduct investigation.

    Now, I did digress to explain the story but here is what transpired, the members were unfortunately dealt with by one of those “yes” man type persons who believed the incident was so appalling that instead of contacting the members’ supervisor he/she decided to go straight to the top.

    An important component in this story is that the offending members immediately realized their error and apologized to everyone affected by the “puff” of spray.

    The few people I am talking about were totally content with the apology and did not wish to pursue this matter any further. I know this personally as I (taking charge of the members under my command) also spoke to the affected parties who all agreed this was a dumb move but totally understood how it happened and were 100 percent content with my apologies for my members and the members’ personal apologies.

    Nope, not good enough. A complete internal investigation was conducted, statements taken, and members put on alert that this was taking place.

    These were good kids! They made a dumb mistake and fully admitted to it. Apologies all around were accepted and all was well.

    Why spend taxpayers money to investigate this matter when there is so much real stuff to be done?

    It is important to my story to understand that upper management assured me that nothing was going to happen to my members.
    Based on that information, I spoke to my members and advised them that they should inform their SRR for advice but that I had been told by management that with the members co-operation matters would be expedited and that nothing would happen.

    The SRR was also notified and told the members to co-operate. I, on the other hand, told the members that it was their choice that they did not have to do anything they did not want(trying to respect their rights.)

    But based on what I was told I suggested a statement admitting to their error would be accepted by senior management who had advised me nothing would happen.

    I was totally wrong. I failed. I should have stuck with my gut instinct but instead believed senior management and forget about the SRRs: they were nowhere to be found for the final verdict.

    Yes indeed my members were served codes of conduct. A travesty in my books considering the promise given me prior to their volunteered statements.

    SRRs mysteriously absent when needed! And my members must carry this code of conduct which could potentially affect their careers for years to come.

    And you wonder why I retired?

    Final Score: Management wins the game . SRRs didn’t show and cannot be held accountable for anything. And my members and I lose.

    Final Thoughts:

    Yes Mike is right … lets do the right thing … take charge and bring some equity to the workplace!

    John Smith.

  2. I agree with your opinions. But having a UNION or Association, call it what we may, does not mean Buffalo Bob,Toews,or Treasury Board will recognize this body as being allowed to speak for US. For this to work Both Employer ( Treasury Board NOT RCMP) and Employee’s ( Association, Union , DSSR) must be ready to recognize the other party. Even with a Union it does not mean they will sit down with us. Remember the RCMP is NOT our EMPLOYER, TREASURY BOARD IS. So why do we let Buffalo Bob and SEC dictate to US?

  3. mixer permalink

    Remember when the Boys from the Canadian Military Services won the compensation decision. The Government could have said Yes this applies also to the RCMP, Even the Commissioner could have asked that this decision be applied to it’s members… But NO we have to start all over and the Governments is going to appeal because they don’t have the money….

  4. Catman permalink

    Yep, a class action lawsuit sounds appropriate. Get the big guns out, that’s what I say….and it is happening.

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