Hello Sisters, Brothers and Friends,
For a number of years, the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) has engaged in consultation with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) with respect to extended hours of service in the CRA’s Assessment, Benefit and Services Branch (ABSB) Contact Centres during the income tax filing season. These extended hours of service were initially introduced by the CRA to meet the needs of Canadian taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, to assist them in the filing of their income tax returns and such other ancillary matters.
These consultations were held pursuant to clause 25.11 of the collective agreement between the parties.
Throughout these consultations, UTE has always been insistent that:
- Any agreement would be for that specific year only;
- The provisions of the collective agreement, including but not limited to Late Hour Premium (25.12(b)), Day Work (25.06 and 25.07), Flexible Hours (25.08), Variable Hours (25.09), Consultation (25.11 and 25.12), Overtime (28) continued to apply;
- There was no agreement for Shift Work and UTE members were solely Day Workers;
- Extended hours were to be offered only to employees who volunteered to work such hours or to new external hires on the condition that this condition of employment was advertised on the Notice of Employment Opportunity and contained in the letter of offer to new hires;
- That no extended hours commence before 6:00 a.m. or end after 9:00 p.m.;
- That the Late Hour Premium be paid for work commencing at 6:00 a.m. and for all work between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.:
- That overtime rates be paid for work commencing before 6:00 a.m. and for work performed after 9:00 p.m. for all employees who volunteered to work extended hours;
- That the provisions of the collective agreement concerning overtime apply as outlined in the collective agreement for those employees who did not volunteer to work extended hours;
- That, with the exception of new external hires, no employee would be required to work weekends and if employees chose to work weekends, normal overtime rates as outlined in the collective agreement continued to apply.
Despite constant protests by the employer concerning costs and their lack of flexibility in scheduling employees to meet its operational needs, the employer agreed to these terms and with the exception of last year, agreed that these arrangements would be reviewed and renewed on a yearly basis. Last year, the employer adopted the position that as they informed the Union that they intended to schedule these extended hours into the future, no further consultation was required. In response, UTE informed the employer that our position was that these consultations should be convened each year before the introduction of the schedules for the upcoming year.
In order to commence consultations each year, UTE advised the employer that we would require the proposed schedule for each Call Centre and the employer complied each year by providing an Hours of Work Matrix that served as the catalyst for the commencement of consultations.
In January 2021, the employer first submitted an Hours of Work Matrix that included extended hours of service outside of the filing season, in addition to extended hours during the filing season. UTE objected to the post-filing season proposal and the employer chose not to proceed with the post-filing season schedule under threat of a Policy Grievance by UTE-PSAC. Notwithstanding this, UTE entered into consultations with the employer to allow for specific extended hours on a program-by-program basis to assist the CRA in meeting the needs of Canadian taxpayers in administering benefits to Canadians introduced by the Government of Canada related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For greater certainty, UTE made it abundantly clear that these extended hours were to be for a specific period and for a definitive purpose related solely to the administration of the pandemic benefits.
In mid-2021, the CRA advised UTE that the Government of Canada had directed them to extend the hours of service to Canadians throughout the entire year, and in the years to come. Again, consultations were held, but UTE opposed the proposals made by the employer to extend service between 6:00 a.m. and for the most part, 9:00 p.m. in various Call Centres. Additionally, the CRA suggested that extended hours up to 10:30 p.m. were necessary in certain parts of Agency programs. Moreover, the employer expressed its intent to schedule a Tuesday to Saturday shift to which we again objected.
In attempting to arrive at a solution to this impasse, UTE proposed, and the employer agreed to the establishment of a Joint Task Force to examine the provisions of clause 25.23 of the collective agreement (Variable Shift Schedule Arrangements) to determine if this clause could prove to be a viable remedy. Unfortunately, the employer insisted that they have the right to impose extended hours and/or shift work upon employees should they be unable to solicit a sufficient number of volunteers. They also advised that they intended to unilaterally proceed with a Tuesday to Saturday shift. UTE could not agree with this position as we felt that this violated the spirit and intent of clause 25.23 and other clauses of article 25 and accordingly, we withdrew from the Joint Task Force. As the PSAC had already served Notice to Bargain on the employer on October 15, 2021, we advised the employer that we would be advancing bargaining proposals concerning this matter in the upcoming round of bargaining and suggested that they do the same.
On December 14, 2021, the employer, in accordance with normal practice, sent the proposed Hours of Work Matrix for 2022 and we engaged in a consultation on December 21, 2021. Again, as we had done in the past, UTE outlined to the employer representatives the normal conditions that must be met in order for us to reach agreement. We made it clear once again that we would not agree to shift work or extended hours all year long. Furthermore, we insisted that overtime rates were to be paid as outlined in the collective agreement for work performed on Saturday.
On December 23, 2021, UTE received an email from the authorized employer representative advising the CRA intended to proceed with the hours of work as stipulated in the enclosed attachment. Consequently, UTE requested that the PSAC file a Policy Grievance and an Unfair Labour Practice (Statutory Freeze) Complaint. These matters are still awaiting scheduling by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board.
On December 7, 2023, the employer and UTE once again engaged in consultation concerning the Hours of Work Matrix for the year 2024 and the employer advised that they once again intended to schedule extended hours and Saturday work in its Contact Centres despite our repeated objections. During this meeting, UTE repeated its position as described previously with one exception. In keeping with the newly negotiated provision for employees to request a 6:00 a.m. starting time, we agreed that employees who volunteered could commence at 6:00 a.m. and that the late hour premium would apply to these employees for those hours before 6:00 a.m. Again, the employer rejected our proposal and announced its decision to continue with their proposal without any changes. Accordingly, we have once again requested that the PSAC file a Policy Grievance on our behalf in this matter.
In the interim, if extended hours are imposed upon employees and/or if the employer attempts to impose shift work upon our members and/or if members are not compensated for Late Hour premiums or Overtime as outlined in Article 25 of the collective agreement where circumstances warrant it, we suggest that members file individual grievances to address these breaches of the collective agreement.
If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, please contact one of your local union representatives.
Union of Taxation Employees