More work, more danger, but a broken promise on extra pay
The UCP government is calling on members of Local 005 to help fix a problem it says it has with rural policing in Alberta.
It has created the Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Force, which will draw on 400 members in Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and Sheriffs to respond to police emergencies normally handled by the RCMP, including homicides, mass shootings and domestic violence brings increased risk.
The plan also affects Alberta Parks Conservation Officers, who may be asked to fill in for Fish and Wildlife officers called away from their duties. Conservation Officers are already called on to respond to similar emergencies.
All of these members are being told to take on extra work. Extra training is also required for many. Meanwhile, responding to these emergencies means they face increased danger and even death.
Unfortunately, rural Alberta is not immune to officers being killed on duty.
In Canada, we have had 22 line-of-duty deaths of officers in Mayerthorpe (4); Moncton (3); Abbotsford (1); Lac-Simon (1); Edmonton (1); St. Albert (1); Kativik (1); Huron County (1); Ottawa (1); Baffin Island (1); Hay River (1); Mildred (1); Spruce Grove (1); Laval (1); Fredericton (2); and most recently this year in Nova Scotia (1).
The Nova Scotia mass killing of 22 people is now one of the deadliest mobile/open ground shooting incidents in North America where responding officers had to deal with a mobile assailant moving from soft target to soft target spanning 100 kms. At one point, the shooter was seen by the Hidden Hilltop Campground in Glenholme, N.S. If the campground was open, this would have provided another target-rich environment.
However, despite spending millions of dollars on new rifles, ammunition, body armour, retrofitting vehicles and computers, the Fish and Wildlife Officers were told in a recent email that there will be no change in their classification and therefore no extra pay. This breaks a promise made in November 2019.
This is not the official written notification of the decision. That will come when the begin duties with the RAPID Force in mid-December.
Sheriffs and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers are still waiting to hear about changes to classification and pay. The target date for them to start RAPID Force duties in Spring 2021.
What’s the latest on classification and pay?
Fish and Wildlife members received an email on Oct. 2 saying that reclassification was being denied and that there would be no increase in pay.
This breaks a promise made in November 2019 that pay would be increased to reflect the changes in duties.
Without any change in pay, members of Local 005 who act as first responders to an emergency normally handled by the RCMP will be getting paid far less for doing the same work – and taking the same risks – as police officers.
For example, the top rate for an RCMP Constable is more than $86,000 per year, but the comparable rank for a Fish and Wildlife field officer attending the same dangerous event is about $15,000 less and for a Sheriff is about $12,000 less.
An RCMP sergeant can earn between $8,000 and $18,000 more per year than comparable sergeants with Fish and Wildlife or the Sheriffs department. There would also be different benefits and pensions.
This disparity in wages is old news to Conservation Officers. They have been trained in Active Assailant Response since 2007 and have been expected to respond to those high-risk situations since then.
Meanwhile, their top rate of pay for Field Officer is $15,000 less than and RCMP Constable and the top rate for District Officers is also between $8,000 and $18,000 less than RCMP corporals and sergeants.
Once officially notified in writing, there is a process to appeal against refusals to reclassify work, but that can take months and appeals aren’t often successful. During that time, you will have to continue to work at your current rate of pay.
What does this mean?
It means the Alberta government values rifles and vehicles more than it values the AUPE members tasked with carrying those rifles and driving those vehicles towards danger to protect Albertans. The government has money for equipment, but not for workers.
It means the government wants you to act like first responders in an emergency but doesn’t want to pay you fairly for the work, the extra training and the added danger. The risk is real – or why else would the government be issuing rifles and body armour?
Will workloads increase?
Yes. The government has said that members taking part in the RAPID Force could spend up to 15 per cent of their work time engaged in those duties.
That’s a lot of extra work, but the government has no plans to hire extra staff. So, the extra work will be forced onto other Local 005 members who have been working short-staffed and under-resourced for years.
This also affects Conservation Officers who aren’t part of the RAPID Force but may be expected to absorb work left undone as their Fish and Wildlife colleagues are called away. Currently, Conservation Officers are working with about 60 per cent of the staff they had a few years ago.
More work, no more workers.
Why is the UCP government doing this?
It’s a political ploy. The government is losing support in rural Alberta thanks to its attacks on doctors and health care; thanks to plans to hand over large parts of health care to its corporate friends - which will hit jobs in rural communities particularly hard; and thanks to changes in taxation which will put an increasing burden on rural councils.
The UCP needed to make a splash to show they were doing something for those communities, so they picked rural crime.
The government came up with a plan to tackle rural crime. What they didn’t say was that AUPE members would be the ones to pay for this public-relations exercise by taking on more work and exposing themselves to more danger without being fairly compensated.
Without adding more staff to do the extra work, the RAPID Force plan is doomed to a rapid failure.
That’s up to you, the members.
AUPE is a democratic union. You can decide how to fight back. Whatever you decide, AUPE has a team of organizers experienced in these kinds of fights. They can offer advice on what actions to take and can help to execute those plans.
Please contact your Member Service Officer (MSO) or the organizing department for more information. You can reach at 1-800-232-7284 or here.