CRA virtual townhall meetings: setting the record straight

January 12, 2023

Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

During a series of virtual townhall meetings held earlier today, you may have heard the CRA Commissioner say that “the union refused to participate in mediation” or that “they didn’t show up”. He also indicated that the union declared “impasse” in the negotiations. 

I would like to set the record straight and provide you with an accurate account of events.

Once things were clearly not moving forward in our negotiations, the Union did in fact declare impasse as the Commissioner stated.  This decision was not made lightly by the bargaining team and this decision was made after exploring all alternatives. What the Commissioner failed to state was that when one party declares an impasse, they must demonstrate to the Labour Relations Board that the decision is compliant with the Act.  We did so and the Board agreed with us that this was the right of the Union. 

Relatedly, the Board moved to establish dates for the hearings of the Public Interest Commission (PIC), but suggested that we attempt mediation in the meantime.  We agreed and looked forward to that mediation as we were optimistic it may yield some results that could move us toward a negotiated settlement eventually.

It is not accurate to say that our union “refused to participate in mediation” or that our bargaining team “didn’t show up” to the mediation session.

What is accurate is the fact that Treasury Board, only days before the start of mediation, with absolutely no warning and no consultation with the bargaining agents, decided to introduce their mandate of returning to the workplace, instead of negotiating it in good faith at the bargaining table. And that was done after denying publicly for weeks that they were going to do just that!

What is also accurate is the fact that Treasury Board in its directive, strongly encouraged separate employers, like the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to do the same and comply with its order. The CRA was not forced to comply with this mandate. Instead, the Commissioner of the CRA chose to comply with the order. This is significantly different from the Commissioner’s statement during the townhall that “they had no choice”.

The employer full well knew UTE’s position as we had been meeting regularly with its representatives to consult meaningfully on the Agency’s Journey to Hybrid and its plans for a gradual return to the workplace. Up until this announcement, the parties had been working in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. 

From the absolute beginning of negotiations, we were clear on our priorities of work/life balance items (aside from obvious economic increases).  One of the major work life/balance items was the ability to work remotely and not be unreasonably denied a request to do so.  In fact, the union tabled specific proposals on telework/virtual work at the bargaining table and in successive bargaining sessions.

What is accurate is the fact that our bargaining team showed up to the mediation session and asked the employer to withdraw the order of returning to the workplace and to talk about telework during the mediation. The employer refused to do so or discuss this matter at mediation. Seeing no path forward, our bargaining team did not see the benefit of continuing this process and withdrew.

The employer then filed a request with the Labour Board demanding that the PIC hearings be postponed and that the parties be directed to resume mediation. We presented our case before the Board that it was clear the employer had no interest in talking about our key issues (also keep in mind that no wage offer at all was presented at any time by the employer).  In the Board’s reply to the request filed by CRA, the Chair specifically agreed that mediation would likely yield nothing of substance and confirmed the establishment of the Public Interest Commission hearings.

I hope this sets the record straight. 

Please feel free to contact one of your local union representatives should you have any questions. Please also take the time to update your contact information with your local in order to ensure that you receive ongoing updates concerning bargaining and other matters.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

In Solidarity,

Marc Brière's signature

Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

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