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City bracing for major increase to RCMP salaries as tentative contract reached

First class constables could see $20,000 pay increase; would bring them in line with municipal forces
RCMP detachment2017
Major salary increases are in store for members of the Prince George RCMP, documents obtained by the National Post are indicating.

The cost of policing could be an even bigger topic than usual when city council begins budget talks later this year as a major increase to the salaries RCMP members earn appears to be on its way.

The federal Treasury Board and the union representing RCMP members reached a tentative agreement in late June and, according to documents obtained by the National Post, it will see the force's first class constables earn $106,576 a year starting in April 2022 if ratified.

That's about $20,000 above the $86,110 they currently earn. Constables make up over half of the RCMP's 20,000 officers and it typically takes three years to make the first class grade, according to the Post.

Under the current funding formula, municipalities the size of Prince George pay 90 per cent of the operating costs of their respective RCMP detachments, making the jump significant for the city's bottom line.

But a review by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, released in January, suggests the hike will bring RCMP members in line with their colleagues in the municipally-run forces.

It found that the starting salary in municipal forces was greater than $70,000 per year - over 30 per cent more than the $53,144 RCMP offers for the first six months of service. Likewise, the salary for a first class constable was greater than $100,000 per year at non-RCMP detachments.

Importantly, RCMP salaries have been frozen for the past 4 1/2 years after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that RCMP members had a right to collective bargaining. In summer 2019, the National Police Federation was certified as the bargaining agent for members below the rank of Inspector.

RCMP national headquarters has advised divisions to budget for a 2.5-per-cent pay increase retroactive Dec. 31, 2016. For the 2018 calendar year, that worked out to about $3,600 per member, the UBCM said in a bulletin. "Rates and provisions of a new pay package could potentially increase the retroactive pay impact beyond RCMP estimates," the UBCM added.

(Over five years, 2.5 per cent works out to $11,315 in retroactive pay for a first class constable according to a calculation derived by the Citizen from an online compound interest calculator.) 

The tentative agreement contains a 1.5 per cent annual salary increase effective April 1, 2017, as well as a “market adjustment” worth between 1.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent each year until 2022, according to the documents obtained by the Post, adding up to between three and four per cent a year.

Coun. Garth Frizzell, who chairs the city's finance and audit committee, said local government has been planning and preparing to cover the retroactive portion of officers' pay by putting money into a reserve. 

As for the additional increase to salaries, Frizzell said the city hopes a way is found to ease it into the budget rather than being forced to take the full blow all at once. He also stressed the final number won't be known until the contract has been ratified.

Based on the UBCM's findings, forming an independent police service in Prince George would not be a cost saver and Frizzell noted the trouble Surrey has run into in the process of establishing its own police department, both in terms of cost and getting the department up and running.

"Unless the numbers for RCMP come back staggeringly high, it seems like that's a really big cost - to put your own force in," Frizzell said. "There isn't a political will anywhere around the table that I'm aware of for doing that, and that would be taking on a massive amount of undertaking,"

For 2020, the city's contract with the RCMP worked out to $22.9 million based on 128 members, according to the City's 2020-2024 financial services plan.

Ratification votes are expected to occur this summer and council's budget talks are to occur in December.