CRA Return to Work Protocol

December 22, 2022

The letter below was sent to the President of Treasury Board, Mona Fortier, in response to the CRA's return-to-work protocol.

The Honourable Mona Fortier
Member of Parliament
President of the Treasury Board
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, Canada
K1A 0A6

Honourable Minister Fortier,

I write to you as President of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), a Component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), representing more than 36,000 members employed in Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) offices across the country. I also write to you in your capacity as President of the Treasury Board.

I will confine my remarks to the issues that pertain to the members of UTE and the employees of the CRA, of whom I have intimate and direct knowledge, and I will defer to the PSAC and other Components of the PSAC to address any concerns that they may have pertaining to their members.

On behalf of the members of UTE, at the outset, I must decry your recent announcement announcing a mandatory return to the workplace for two to three days per week, or 40% to 60% of their schedule. We submit that this decision is ill-advised, arbitrary, poorly conceived and hasty. Relatedly, we maintain that this decision does not support the efficient operation of the public service, nor does it truly consider the health and safety, well-being and morale of CRA employees and members of UTE. Moreover, we contend that this decision is disrespectful to our members and to their Union, the UTE.

While you state that this decision was taken considering the well-being of employees and to support the principles of collaboration and collegiality, we respectfully submit that this is a sham and that the decision was made solely to appease the demands of municipalities and their Mayors, private enterprise, Chambers of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and other such lobby groups to force employees to return to the workplace. Our members have voiced to us that they are particularly offended that you have chosen not to disclose the real reasons behind the decision and to hide behind the veil of employee-well-being, collaboration and collegiality.

I remind you, Madame Fortier, that during the pandemic, the Government of Canada and its departments, separate employers and agencies, reached out to the CRA during its time of need to ask the CRA to assist in delivering their programs for Canadians. These requests included assistance in delivering programs related to the Emergency Benefits, the Afghan Crisis, and the issuance of Passports. In turn, the CRA reached out to UTE to contact our members and to encourage them to volunteer to perform duties outside of their work descriptions, to work irregular hours and to work beyond their daily hours of work to assist in the delivery of these programs. Through meaningful consultation with the CRA, and in a true sense of collaboration, UTE answered the call and so did our members.

Not only did our members deliver the program with over 90% to 95% of them working virtually, but they exceeded expectations. They were proud to assist Canadians and the Government of Canada in a time of need, and the UTE was proud of our members for doing so. The CRA and the Government of Canada echoed these sentiments in communications with employees and in the media, but today, these comments have diminished in the views of our members, and they now see them as being shallow and insincere.

Since your announcement and the subsequent announcement by the CRA on December 15, 2022, UTE has heard from many of our members, expressing their discontent and their anxiety over the return- to -work protocol and the time frame for same. They have insisted that UTE revisit our commitment to collaboration and cooperation in providing assistance to other departments and agencies. Further, they have demanded a call for action from their Union, and rest assured, UTE will respond imminently and effectively to this call.

These members and indeed UTE itself are particularly offended that this announcement was made and that this unilateral and arbitrary action was taken by the employer without meaningful consultation with the Union, and despite being well aware that the matter of virtual work/telework was at the bargaining table between the Union and the CRA, as employer, and was a live issue. It was even more offensive that this announcement was made days before mediation sessions had been scheduled between the CRA and the Union.

We respectfully suggest that this decision was hastily made without considering thoroughly the impact on employees. I trust that you will agree that many employees have had to rearrange their lives after being sent home to work during the pandemic some two and one-half years ago. Many employees have had to make substantial and indefinite arrangements for childcare which may not be easily altered. Many employees will now be forced to commute by personal vehicle despite rising and excessive gas prices. Car pooling may no longer be a possibility as a result of varying employee schedules, creating additional expenses for employees and causing environmental and commuting issues. Some employees have relocated or sold their homes on the quasi-assurance that teleworking was to be the way of the future in the CRA.

Other issues arise as a result of this decision as well. As mentioned previously, commuting by personal vehicle to the workplace will create environmental issues, such as added pollution through vehicular emissions. Ongoing plans to create additional housing as a result of the sale and renovation of government building will now be delayed or forestalled. Moreover, we believe that as the CRA has not renewed some current leases or participated in the sale of some of its real property, the CRA may find itself having insufficient office space to accommodate its returning employees.

UTE has heard from many members that as result of this sudden and recent announcement, those who are able to retire will do so imminently. Many other members have advised that they will be seeking other employment opportunities outside of CRA and the public service. This will lead to loss of corporate knowledge and experience and will also hinder the CRA’s opportunities for recruitment.

As the pandemic unfolded, UTE was in support of the Government’s position that departments, separate employers, and agencies were afforded flexibility in deciding which jobs could be performed remotely, which required an on-site presence, and which could be performed in a hybrid fashion and the CRA and UTE met regularly in meaningful consultation to address these matters. Both the CRA and UTE favoured this approach, and we worked collaboratively to ensure the efficient operation of the service, the need to effectively serve Canadians and the health and safety and well-being of our members, and this approach worked well. We strongly suggest that this “one size fits all” approach will only serve to adversely affect the operations and diminish employee morale and efficiencies.  

For these reasons, Madame Minister, we urge you to reconsider your decision in this matter and to immediately engage in meaningful consultation with the Unions in this matter of significance to your employees and our members.

In closing, however, I would like to pose a question to you and we would appreciate receiving a prompt response to this matter. In carefully reading the announcement, we have noted that you state that separate employers and agencies are “strongly encouraged” to follow the direction outlined in your announcement.  Accordingly, I ask you if the CRA has indeed any flexibility in deviating from this direction or if they are required to comply with the direction provided.

I thank you in advance for your attention to this matter and would gratefully appreciate a prompt response.


Marc Brière's signature
Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees