USJE meets with RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme

On Tuesday, October 31, USJE had its first opportunity to meet with RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme at a scheduled National Labour Management Committee meeting (NLMCC).

The meeting lasted nearly four hours and covered a whole host of issues that USJE had raised for the official agenda.

Commissioner Duheme opened the meeting by thanking union partners for meeting with him and apologizing for having to cancel a virtual call scheduled in June 2023 due to another pressing matter. National President David Neufeld had communicated with the RCMP many times over the past seven months requesting a meeting with the Commissioner that could be specifically focused on USJE’s priorities. 

Commissioner Duheme shared that he was keen to schedule one-on-one meetings with each union in the near future to better understand the unique issues of each bargaining unit and to get to know the union leaders.

Representing USJE during the meeting was National President Neufeld, National Vice-President Lynette Robinson and Regional Vice-President Sonia Colterman. During the course of the NLMCC, USJE was given the opportunity to speak to all the agenda items submitted.

Some of the main issues USJE spoke to were as follows:

  1.  Withdrawal of Agenda Items by management: USJE raised concerns that RCMP management (in some locations) were withdrawing or asking Locals to withdraw certain agenda items from Local Labour Management Meetings. USJE identified that the LMC process is important when trying to resolve issues at the lowest level and stressed that management should not be removing agenda items once submitted by the union.
  2. Bi-lateral Meetings with the Commissioner: USJE identified that it is important to build a strong, professional relationship with the Commissioner. It has been something that could not be achieved with having no access to speaking to the new Commissioner. USJE believes in resolving issues at the lowest level but sometimes an intervention is required at the highest level. USJE hopes to build this relationship with Commissioner Duheme in the future.
  3. Defining an Operational Public Service Employee: USJE identified that the RCMP was using language in a recent communique on telework that cited USJE members as being “operational”. USJE asked the Commissioner to consider the language being used and to review such a definition for Public Service Employees. USJE advised that using the definition “operational” would then put USJE members in a different category of employee with different pension implications
  4. Establishment of the Departmental Panel on Telework: USJE asked to discuss the Letter of Agreement on Telework and how the RCMP wished to proceed on consulting the Terms of Reference for the Joint Panels. A special meeting will be set up in the near future on how these Joint Panels will work within the RCMP.

    National President Neufeld, among others, highlighted the need to ensure flexibility for telework and remote work options. Commissioner Duheme emphasized that, from his perspective, the stipulation of a minimum of three days per week in the office is imperative for many RCMP employees. At the same time, a better definition and agreement of what constitutes an ‘operational employee’ would allow for clarity and a better understanding of which employees need to be overwhelmingly in the office and which do not.

    President Neufeld noted that many Public Service Employees are seeking flexibility for hybrid work options and will not remain with the RCMP without it. Civilian Members have similar needs and the competition for CMs and PSEs is such that overly restrictive hybrid workplaces serve as a disincentive to join or stay with the RCMP. Commissioner Duheme recognized some of these challenges.
  5. Leave for Union Business – Reintegration of USJE’s Regional Vice-Presidents: USJE identified that the RCMP’s unwillingness to hold an elected USJE RVP’s substantive position while holding office will be a deterrent to future members running for these regional positions. National President Neufeld was clear that we have now witnessed two recent cases where USJE members have returned to the RCMP to find out that they would not be given their substantive position (or a position) in their detachment.
    Commissioner Duheme indicated that this issue needs to be addressed via collective bargaining and that the RCMP is following Treasury Board Policy. He identified that options are extremely limited in remote locations and that jobs can not always be created. USJE will continue to fight and advocate for USJE members jobs to be protected when they accept a national or regional full-time position within USJE or PSAC. No one should have to risk their employment situation in the federal service because they have stepped up to help serve our membership.
  6. Update on Refocusing of Governmental Spending in the RCMP: USJE requested an update from Commissioner Duheme on the government exercise to refocus spending in the department.

    Commissioner Duheme was unable to disclose how the RCMP is proposing to meet the Liberal government’s request for budget reductions, as it is still subject to Cabinet confidentiality. The Commissioner noted that no other police agency in the country is being asked to cut its budget in this way, and that it is an exceedingly difficult exercise. Workforce adjustment is not currently being pursued given the ongoing departures of many RCMP Regular members, Public Service Employees and Civilian members.

    The Commissioner expressed his appreciation for all of the work being undertaken by RCMP employees, not just Regular members and noted that as an RCMP employee, if you aren’t doing the police work as a Regular Member, you are fundamental to supporting it – and without that support, the Regular Members couldn’t do their jobs. 
  7. Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution (ICHR) – Separation of the Parties: The structure and operations of the ICHR is the responsibility of the employer (the RCMP), and recommendations following an investigation need to be in writing. The RCMP recognizes that, in some cases, decisions have been made without a full accounting of the workplace. They shared that, in many cases, the provision of the ‘notices of occurrences’ is often happening without explanation, and sufficient content. The RCMP shared that there needs to be more comprehensive assessment of workplace conditions.

    National Vice President Lynette Robinson asked for a re-articulation of the formal outline of the current protocol once a complaint has been made, and an investigation has been initiated. Currently the ICHR makes recommendations to the Divisions regarding the separation of parties. USJE would like to see this continue as the recommendation is coming from an independent administrator based on the 3919 (notice of occurrence / harassment compliant). However, because the ICRH has no decision-making authority and currently functions as a ‘recommending body’ only, they do not have the power beyond their capacity to make recommendations. USJE appreciates that ICHR personnel are making recommendations to the Divisions regarding the separation of parties, and would like to see this practice continue . 

    The RCMP has said that there will be detailed paperwork required from the Division to be submitted to the ICHR regarding workplace arrangements after a 3919 is submitted that will take into consideration to health and safety of the workplace. 
  8. Onboarding of New Employees: National Vice President Lynette Robinson and Regional Vice President Sonia O’Brien-Colterman noted that there is still no official onboarding program for new Public Service employees. They noted that bargaining agent representatives should be given the opportunity to engage with new hires of the RCMP. USJE advised that the Department of National Defense has an elaborate onboarding program and that our union would like to see the same for the RCMP. USJE also asked that the RCMP consider implementing proper mental health training for Public Service Employees before they enter the workplace so that they can be prepared to deal with traumatic situations or materials.

    RCMP representatives pointed out that they have created an employee retention committee. While USJE is quite encouraged by this development, the comprehensive onboarding employees would further support retention efforts.

    On-boarding improves employee satisfaction, creates a culture of feeling valued by the employer, and fosters dedication among employees. This is why USJE recommends onboarding and a fulsome orientation which goes beyond the employee retention committee for these reasons.
  9. Changes to Conduct Measures: There have been recent changes to the conduct measures for Civilian Members. USJE has asked for a detailed explanation on what this will mean for USJE members that fall under the RCMP Act. The new process will have the conduct authority branch responsible for decision making. Having one group making decisions should ensure a more consistent approach in the process and outcomes. 
  10. Shelter Cost Differential: It should be noted that USJE also spoke to Commissioner Duheme about the recently announced changes to the Shelter Cost Differential (SDC) by the National Joint Council. USJE pointed out that many Public Service Employees would no longer qualify for the allowance or would no longer be eligible for the allowance (homeowners) based on the NJC’s latest assessment and interpretation of the directive. USJE identified that the Shelter Cost Differential is in fact a tool used to recruit and retain employees in isolated posts by numerous federal government departments by assisting with the high costs of living in these remote locations. USJE asked Commissioner Duheme for his support on this important issue.

    Commissioner Duheme was quick to advise that he will advocate to maintain the Shelter Cost Differential for isolated posts to the extent possible. He acknowledged that the SDC is something that is vital for RCMP employees in isolated posts. Fortunately, subsequent to USJE’s meeting with Commissioner Duheme, the SDC was amended by the Government of Canada.

Overall, USJE was pleased to have finally met with Commissioner Duheme and the opportunity to raise numerous issues that have been developing in 2023. USJE is hopeful that a strong relationship can be developed with the new Commissioner and that the culture of the RCMP can be one that acknowledges that Public Service Employee issues are just as important as those of the Regular Members.