Earlier this week, USJE National President David Neufeld met with senior Members of the RCMP in O Division alongside MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Public Safety Minister Pam Damoff. The meeting’s focus was discussing the experiences of public service employees within O Division who provide crucial operational support for a range of activities from criminal investigations, intelligence gathering, case management, among other activities.
In particular, President Neufeld wished to highlight the recommendations of the report written by leading public safety researcher Dr. Rose Ricciardelli regarding Detachment Services Assistants which outlined some key recommendations for improving the working conditions, training opportunities as well as the morale of public service employees within the RCMP. Copies of the report were distributed to participants in the meeting, and Mr. Neufeld advised that there have been ongoing discussions with Commissioner Brenda Lucki on how to implement the recommendations as quickly as possible.
Specifically, Mr. Neufeld expressed his concern about the persistence of a culture within the RCMP that values certain members (Regular Members and Civilian Members) over others which leads to a lack of coherence within the organization, and unequal treatment of public service employees.
Dr. Ricciardelli’s report highlighted that the absence of some basic safety provisions (bullet proof/ protective glass for front-facing employees) and the ongoing exclusion of impacted Detachment Services Assistants (or others) from CISMs are just two examples of how the culture has not changed. Mr. Neufeld emphasized that public service employees are part of the operational backbone of the RCMP, without which the organization could not function and there needs to be more respect, resources and consideration of their experiences so they can be fully valued and embraced for the jobs they do.
In the meeting, President Neufeld also addressed the importance of USJE’s presumptive injury campaign, and the hybrid work environment.
President Neufeld shared the concerns of USJE when it comes to a lack of sufficient supports for public service employees who may be at risk of Occupational Stress Injuries (OSI), or who have incurred an OSI. Owing to the fact that the RCMP has separate and distinct agreements with Regular Members and Civilian Members that govern their employment conditions, there is an unfortunate lack of equality for public service employees when it comes to trauma informed psychological supports and leave provisions for occupational stress injuries.
The Government of Canada’s Sun Life Benefits program offers extremely limited coverage for public service employees in need of trauma informed private psychological services. Further, paid leave for public service employees within the RCMP who incur an Occupational Stress injury must be negotiated through the Ontario’s Worker’s Compensation plan, for which there is limited to no presumptive coverage for non-first responders. This creates an experience of notable inequality within the RCMP whereby certain employees have far greater access to mental health supports and leave provisions than public service employees.
Mr. Neufeld highlighted the priority that USJE is placing on USJE’s National Presumptive Injury Campaign where USJE is urging the federal government to create full inclusion so that federal Public Safety and Justice employees, many of whom deal with traumatic incidents and/or materials for years on end, can have presumptive access to Worker’s Compensation, like first responders.
USJE also discussed the significance of hybrid work arrangements for public service employees within the RCMP, many of whom value the work life balance it allows. USJE was advised that the opportunity for a hybrid work arrangement is something that RCMP employees can request from their managers. Mr. Neufeld emphasized that in order to attract and retain a talented workforce, including those occupying public service jobs within the RCMP, it is crucial that hybrid work arrangements be supported and sustained throughout the long term.
USJE has been made aware that the denial of hybrid – or off-site – working arrangements (that many public service employees have requested) has led to their departure from the RCMP. Representatives of O division acknowledged that they are still in the initial stages of implementing the new normal and putting telework agreements in place. Mr. Neufeld said that this is an area that USJE is watching closely and expects that the RCMP will be more flexible as things evolve.
Finally, in regard to training, O Division spoke of a new federal policing orientation which is operationally focused and intended to support individuals transferring into new roles from external agencies or departments. This orientation will evolve over time. USJE has repeatedly asked that there be a comprehensive training for PSEs within the RCMP, particularly for but exclusive to Detachment Services Assistants. While this Orientation is a good start, it is not obvious that it meets all the needs of PSEs within O Division. Mr. Neufeld said that the area of training is one that has been addressed with Commissioner Lucki since 2019 and that he is extremely eager to see a comprehensive training program made available to public service employees as quickly as possible. Relying on public service employees to quicky grasp and navigate complex organization system within the criminal justice portfolio is not fair or reasonable. Next week, President Neufeld will be traveling to Yellowknife, NWT, to visit USJE members in several departments including the RCMP, PPSC and CSC. He looks forward to visiting with the members along side USJE Regional Vice-President, Valda Behrens.