As RCMP celebrate wage increase, municipalities look to upcoming budget for federal government help

Thousands of constables will see their salaries rise after today thanks to the force’s first-ever collective bargaining agreement – but the group that represents municipalities across the country says many towns and cities need help from the federal government to pay the bill.

Last summer, the federal government and the union representing RCMP members ratified an agreement to provide a major wage increase to nearly 20,000 members.

Starting Friday, constables – who make up more than half of all RCMP officers – will earn up to $106,576 – a jump of $20,000 since April 2016.

The agreement also provides for retroactive salary increases to cover the period the two parties negotiated.

Taneen Rudyk, vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said municipalities weren’t at the negotiating table and are now looking at massive bills which, depending on the size of a municipality, can range from thousands of dollars to millions.

The cost of RCMP contract services in a municipality or region — including salaries and equipment — is shared between Ottawa and other levels of government.

“What we were advised to prepare for, estimates of around 2.5% per year, actually turned out to be well below the final agreement of 23.7% over six years, which is a retroactive pay going back to 2017. And we can certainly ‘I can’t handle this kind of increase,’ said Rudyk, a councilor for the town of Vegreville, Alta., about an hour east of Edmonton.

Unlike other levels of government, municipalities cannot run deficits.

“We have to cut our services or make some really tough decisions with huge tax increases for our citizens,” Rudyk said.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called on the federal government to include funds in next week’s budget to cover municipalities’ retroactive costs associated with implementing the new pay scale.

“We’re certainly not talking about the caliber of policing or the community support we’re getting from the RCMP and we’re certainly not talking about whether or not they deserve this retroactive help,” Rudyk said.

The rates of pay for an RCMP constable, according to the collective agreement signed in August. (Treasury Board Secretariat)

“What we’re talking about is the very real fact that we weren’t consulted, we weren’t at the negotiating table, and the bill was handed to us de facto. And it doesn’t work. just not.”

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the RCMP must provide fair compensation to recruit and retain officers. He also hinted that talks are underway to address the additional cost to municipalities.

“The short answer is…yes,” he said Wednesday.

“We work closely with municipalities as well as provincial governments who use the RCMP as capable police.”