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Richmond Mounties lose their stripes

Local RCMP members cover up their traditional yellow stripe on their pants in an apparent silent protest over pay and conditions

Richmond Mounties appeared to be coming out in solidarity for a fellow RCMP member on the Sunshine Coast, who has risked his career by publicly protesting a national pay and conditions discrepancy.

Sgt. Chris Backus, a Mountie on the Sunshine Coast, said he has been verbally reprimanded by the RCMP and told not to speak out any further, a day after he and fellow members of the detachment covered up the yellow stripe on their uniforms.

Last week, Public Safety Canada announced retroactive salary increases for the RCMP, but it’s not nearly enough, say many Mounties, who began what’s turning out to be a nationwide silent protest involving covering up the stripe.

Locally, North Vancouver members posted pictures on social media of them wearing plain trousers and on Monday, Richmond officers were spotted following suit in similarly non-striped garb outside of their No. 5 Road detachment.

No one from Richmond RCMP was willing to comment on the apparent show of solidarity for their Sunshine Coast colleague.

Sgt. Chris Backus (right), a Sunshine Coast Mountie, has been reprimanded for publicly criticizing the federal government’s pay increase for the RCMP. Fellow Mounties from his own detachment and beyond (including Richmond) are now following his silent protest by covering up the yellow stripe on their trousers, sometimes with a different colour. - Twitter

The Mounties’ pay increases include a 1.25 per cent raise effective Jan. 1, 2015, another 1.25 per cent raise effective Jan.1, 2016, and a 2.3 per cent market adjustment effective April 1, 2016.

However, the pay and conditions gap between Mounties and municipal forces is still too great, according to the National Police Federation (NPF) which, although not officially representing RCMP members as a union, claims to have more than 40 per cent of the national force signed up.

“This package does very little in moving the RCMP into a competitive salary range to attract and to retain qualified candidates,” said the federation’s co-chair, Brian Sauvé, who supports the protest and says it will try and help any participating members facing discipline.

“We’ve put up and we’ve allowed our members to be disadvantaged for too long, whether it be resource levels, which have been abysmal or whether it be compensation tables,” he said.

The NPF is one of three groups in Canada trying to professionally represent the country’s 17,000 members.

The force is in the process of forming a union, but no group is yet in place to represent RCMP officers in bargaining.

Last July, some Mounties refused to volunteer for so-called, “red serge duty,” where they march in parades and other events.

The entry level salary for an officer with the RCMP is $50,674, while a constable with the Vancouver Police Department, on probation, earns $68,443.

The head of the RCMP in B.C., Brenda Butterworth-Carr, sent a message to members asking them not to cover up the stripes.

“While I understand your disappointment on this matter, I trust you will understand why I cannot endorse such action,” she wrote.

“I believe an incomplete uniform undermines the distinctive role we play in keeping our citizens safe and secure.”

More than 8,000 RCMP members have joined the NPF since the RCMP announced its 2015 and 2016 pay packages last week.

With its exponential increase, the NPF said it now represents more than 45 per cent of members and is in a legal position to file for certification.

Under existing legislation, NPF is required to achieve at least 40 per cent membership, in order to file for certification to the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board.