The government of the Province of Quebec has introduced legislation, Bill 3, that will change the way public employee pension funds are financed. The government wants to make it an equitable system with 50% of the funds coming from the employees themselves, in the form of pay cheque deductions, and 50% from taxpayers. Currently the Montreal police (SPVM) pension is funded 76% by taxpayers. Needless to say the men and women in blue, actually black, are not at all amused by this increased deduction.
But what can they do to show their dissatisfaction with the proposed change? As an ‘essential service’ the police cannot go on strike. In 2007, disgruntled with another government proposal, and unable to strike, the police took to wearing jeans instead of uniform issued pants. The only problem was that the protest went on so long, people almost forgot that the Levi’s were not part of the uniform. I can recall overhearing a tourist couple remarking on the denim without knowing it was a protest: “This place is so cool,” said the woman. “The cops wear jeans here.”
Undaunted, the next time there was a disagreement, they switched the uniform slacks not for jeans, but for military-style camouflage pants and they donned bright red baseball caps emblazoned with the union logo. The City challenged this at the Essential Services Commission, but lost when the panel ruled that as long as the cops were doing their job, it was fine to be out of uniform.
So now once again the city of Montreal has a police force that is clad in camouflage pants and red caps. But they are still serving and protecting. Fine by me. There was a time in New York City when the police were involved in a similar dispute with the City. During the negotiations, one very hot and humid day, as only Manhattan can get hot and humid, the police officers chose not to wear their ties, even if they were clip on (for safety reasons). The City, not pleased with the progress of the negotiations, pushed back and demanded the wearing of the full uniform, including ties. The police said OK, if that’s the way you want to be, and wore the ties as ordered, but clipped to the epaulettes of their shirts, with collars left open!
I think people function best when comfortable, regardless of whether they are police officers or city hall paper-pushers. During our recent high heat and humidity, a number of officers have improvised and instead of wearing camouflage pants, they are wearing thin white slacks. Still not a problem for me. If the police refused to do their job in such a way that the safety of the public was left in jeopardy, I would be the first to complain. But sartorial statements get the point across without putting the public in danger.