COVID-19 vaccine requirement for CRA employees

November 9, 2021

TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

Dear Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

As you are aware, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) released its policy on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for all Agency employees via a message from the Commissioner dated November 8, 2021. Before the issuance of this message, the National Office of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) was provided with a draft copy of the policy.  We requested to be consulted and we were invited to a consultation meeting on October 22, 2021 to discuss the draft policy.

It was clear from the outset that this would not be a true consultation, but merely a briefing, as the employer conceded that it was in essence a close reproduction of the Treasury Board policy and that they had virtually no authority to deviate from this policy. Notwithstanding this, the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) proceeded to raise our issues, concerns and proposed revisions to the draft policy. In addition, at the employer’s request, we outlined our issues in writing.  The employer responded to our concerns only a few days before the release of the Commissioner’s message and in fact, failed to satisfactorily address any of the concerns raised by UTE.

Subsequent to the conclusion of this “consultation”, the UTE National Office has continued discussions with the PSAC and the UTE Executive Council has had the opportunity to discuss this matter in order to formulate our position on this subject and to provide direction to Local representatives and members.

The PSAC has made it clear that it will not oppose the mandatory vaccination policy and they have further advised that it will not support a Statutory Freeze Complaint pursuant to the Federal Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Act or the filing of a Policy Grievance. The Alliance has also opined that a Court challenge may likely not be successful. They have signalled, however, that they may support grievances from members who opt not to be vaccinated and are forced on Administrative Leave Without Pay where they have been denied necessary accommodations where there are compelling and persuasive medical reasons, religious beliefs or other discriminatory applications as contemplated by the Canadian Human Rights Act or violations of the collective agreement.

The PSAC has been providing ongoing information and direction to all Components, including UTE, on this issue and we are obliged to follow the direction and decisions of the PSAC as they are the Bargaining Agent.

As a result, should you wish to challenge the employer’s decision to force you on Administrative Leave Without Pay or where you have been refused an exemption by the employer, or if you have been refused an accommodation for legitimate and persuasive reasons, we strongly suggest that you immediately contact a local Union representative. Your local representative will discuss your case with you and document the details and reasons for your challenge. Your local representative will listen closely to the arguments and issues outlined by you and make a determination on whether or not the Union will support a grievance based on the individual and specific merits and circumstances of your case.

Should your local Union representative require assistance in making a determination concerning your case, the services of Your Regional Vice-President (RVP) and the Labour Relations Section of the UTE National Office will be available to offer guidance and direction to your local representative and to assist them in developing appropriate grievance wording.

In any event, please be advised that even though a grievance may be authorized by a local union representative, each grievance will be reviewed at successive levels of the grievance procedure and it is possible that support and representation may be withdrawn at successive levels based on a thorough analysis at the various levels of the grievance procedure. Please also be advised that there is no guarantee that the PSAC will support a reference to adjudication of the grievance.

Finally, you should also be aware that the filing of a grievance will not forestall or otherwise delay the actions of the employer and we anticipate that the employer will enforce its policy and place you on Administrative Leave Without Pay pending the disposition of your grievance.

Notwithstanding the above, UTE agrees that vaccinations are an effective tool in controlling the further spread of the COVID-19 virus and its various strains and we strongly encourage all members to get vaccinated.

Should you have any questions or require further clarification, we encourage you to discuss the matter with one of your local Union representatives.

In Solidarity,

Marc Brière's signature

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

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