It seemed like a simple errand. My sergeant gave me a purchase order and address and told me to pick up some detective pocket badges. Regular members were not issued pocket badges because of a murky logic that worried members would run amok flashing their badges around 24 hours a day. We did have a "warrant card," about the size of a credit card.
Trying to arrest someone while in plain clothes could be a challenge. Somehow the sight of a man waving a card did not evoke the required and often necessary response. Many a good brawl resulted when the person being arrested wanted to see a piece of tin as the authoritative ID so I was eager to see where our hat badges were made.
I approached a concrete structure with bars on all the windows and a solid brass door with very thick glass. I remember thinking that police holding cells didn't look this secure. I buzzed the intercom and the door unlocked.
A white haired gentleman gave me a mini tour before handing over a box to take back to my station. I noticed many similar boxes stacked on skids. He confirmed that they also contained badges for my department and had been stored for the past three years awaiting the order to ship.
After some checking I discovered the pocket badges were wrapped up in labour relations bargaining. Each year they were dealt away for other benefits during collective bargaining. The reason the white haired gentleman was so candid was because the bargaining had successfully concluded and the badges were cleared for distribution.
Welcome to the world of labour relations – a world which RCMP members are about to become very familiar with, thanks to the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling. Given the longevity, breadth and depth of this organization there is a great deal of catching up to do. Some might even think the task is monumental.
The road ahead will be bumpy. Complications include the basics of pay and working conditions but this all pales in comparison to demystifying that which has been vilified by 130 years of indoctrination. Other than the subtle negativity against labour relations ingrained during training, Mounties will have to revisit aspects of their past which may conflict with the realities of today.
Thankfully there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Help is readily available by gleaning the best information from municipal or provincial police agencies. There is plenty to be gained by closely associating with the Canadian Police Association. I would even be so bold as to say the best model would be the trail blazed by the Ontario Provincial Police Association.
Although not nearly as vast as the RCMP, the OPP nonetheless encountered a myriad of issues soon to confront any new RCMP labour relations system. Like the RCMP, the OPP has a widely dispersed membership and police many diverse areas, from country highways to city beats.
First and foremost RCMP members must accept that their peers want only the best for them and their families. The reps will come from within their own ranks and have the same wishes and aspirations. A whole new world of democratic processes is about to be realized. The good news is that if the membership feels, for any reason, that their association reps are not serving them properly, they can turf them out on their ears at the next vote.
Life is about to become far less complicated for those terrified upper management types who now look like deer caught in the headlights. Many of their decisions which currently require the wisdom of Solomon will be made simpler over night. Issues like days off, shift work, complaints about pay, sick time, overtime, squabbling about favouritism will melt away.
A standard working agreement will govern relations with those under them. No more wink-wink, nod-nod relationships and trying to remember who is owed what favour because they did this on that date. If they are pressured to do anything they can simply pull out the working agreement and have the person take it up with the association.
The members who feel they have been badly handled, unjustly treated or marginalized by the system or other members will find relief through an official grievance process that requires both management and labour to work toward a proper settlement. If either side fails then a whole lot of hurt can come down from various government agencies or embarrassment through the glare of public attention.
The next year should prove interesting. There are few problems facing RCMP members which have not already been dealt with in the multitude of police labour relations case law on the books. By virtue of simply picking the same process as every other Canadian police service, RCMP members will gain the benefits of every police agreement that has come down in the past 50 years.
It is now their right and the Supreme Court has given the government a year to get it right. The system is already there for acceptance and implementation.