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