To characterize the impact the RCMP’s wage provisions under the force’s first collective agreement as a “bit of a jolt” to Surrey taxpayers is “probably a little understated.”
That’s what Surrey’s general manager of finance Kam Grewal had to say in response to Coun. Brenda Locke’s comments, as council considered a corporate report Monday concerning agreement ratified by the RCMP with the federal government
“The numbers are quite significant,” Grewal said. “We’re talking a total aggregate value of close to $25 million if we include 2022, so I think that is quite significant.”
Grewal and Terry Waterhouse, the general manager of Surrey’s policing transition authored the report. It notes that the city’s share of costs, for April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2022, might amount to $42,800 per constable upward to $55,700 for staff sergeants. Meantime, the funds city hall set aside for retroactive payments, at 2.5 per cent each year, equates to about $30,000 per constable to $39,000 per staff sergeant covering that same time period. The Surrey RCMP is Canada’s largest RCMP detachment, with 843 Mounties. In terms of magnitude, Grewal told council, the total number of non-unionized Surrey RCMP officers is less than 20.
“This is a positive thing,” Locke said. “I’ve always felt kind of bad that we have been policing, to some degree, the city and all RCMP jurisdictions on the backs of officers and so I think this is positive although I do recognize this is going to be a bit of a financial jolt to the city.”
Coun. Laurie Guerra, on the other hand, sees the situation as “somewhat problematic.”
“Simply put, the RCMP are employed, or paid, by the city that they work for and yet that employer, or the city, municipality, has no say on how much they are paid or a voice in the collective bargaining agreement and to me it seems that it’s kind of forced on them,” Guerra said. “At least with our own police service we will avoid that going forward.”
Coun. Doug Elford echoed that, but added he doesn’t begrudge the Mounties for their wage increase “because the should be fairly paid.”
“In the future we’ll have a little bit more ability to manage our collective agreements with our policing department,” he said.
The corporate report indicates that the ratification of the RCMP members’ collective agreement will have significant financial implications on the City’s 2021 budget and will continue to have an impact on the on-going RCMP contract budget. “Provisions that have been made for pay raises and any associated benefit increases or any other considerations will have a direct impact on the current and future year budgets. Obtaining details regarding specific implications of the ratified agreement to the City will assist the City with its short-term and long-term financial planning,” it states.
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2015 that Mounties have a right to unionize and bargain collectively. After more that two years of bargaining, the RCMP’s rank-and-file ratified their first collective agreement this past August, represented by the National Police Federation. The six-year agreement, ending on March 31, 2023, applies to more than 19,000 Mounties below the rank of inspector and reservists. No local governments were at the bargaining table or consulted, the corporate report notes.
“The overall impact of this increase will be significantly higher than just the difference in base salary increases set aside at 2.5 per cent each year and the base salary increases ratified by the members,” Waterhouse and Grewal write. “The impact of this agreement on member benefits is also not known at this time. To-date, the City has not received any direct communication regarding the total financial impact of the increase in retroactive payments to the City. Increases for anyone above the rank of Inspector are also not known at this time. The total financial impact on the City will be based on the number and rank of members deployed by the RCMP detachment during each of the years after April 1, 2017.”
Coun. Linda Annis said Mounties have been underpaid for many years and she’s pleased to see their wage is coming up, albeit “not quite at parity with municipal police forces. While I recognize this is going to be a significant expense to the city, we also have to bear in mind that we have been forever getting a 10 per cent reduction, if you will, from the federal government as well.
“And so moving forward our salary expense and benefits for our employees with SPS is going to be significantly higher and we’re going to have to be careful and budget for that and also budget as we go through the collective bargaining process in years to come forward,” Annis said. “So while I do recognize it is a big expense for the city it’s one that we haven’t been paying for in the past because we’ve been getting a real bargain with the RCMP.”