Following last week's media reports about the quality of service provided by Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) call centres, the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), which represents more than 28,000 employees at the CRA, including all agents working in the call centres, would like to share its thoughts on this issue.
We’re not at all surprised by the conclusions that came out of these reports. Indeed, our union has been saying for years that the number of agents is insufficient to handle the volume of calls. This problem has already been identified by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) of Canada in its 2017 Fall Report on CRA Call Centres.
In our view, there are several other reasons that contribute to the problems reported by both individuals and businesses when it comes to dealing with the CRA.
First of all, the working conditions of our members working in CRA call centres are very difficult.
One of the most important issues is rather than investing in permanent staff, the Agency relies heavily on precarious employment at its Call Centers. These term employees are working without knowing whether they will still have a job tomorrow, in three months or in a year's time. This situation creates a lot of anxiety and uncertainty which in turn leads to higher level of staff turnover as well trained employees seek other employment opportunities which will afford them greater employment security.
Our members are extremely frustrated by their working conditions that are imposed upon them:
- Unreasonable expectations by the employer
- Stressful and demanding situations
- High call volumes
- Lack of rest period between calls
- Excessive monitoring
Furthermore, feedback from our members reveal that management refuses too often to allow them necessary reading time to make themselves aware of frequent and recent interpretations, rulings and regulatory changes.
Face to face counter service
On October 1, 2013, the CRA decided to close down its counter services where taxpayers could come in and discuss their problems in person with a CRA Client Services Agent. At that time, we told the Agency that it was making a big mistake and we were right then and we remain right today. The recurring problems and ongoing complaints from individuals, taxpayer representatives and businesses clearly demonstrate this.
For several years, we have been advocating that the Agency should re-open counter services to taxpayers and we are prepared to expand upon our reasoning for this.
Now is the time for the CRA, Treasury Board and the government to put their money where their mouth is. In its next budget, the government must invest more to increase the number of agents at the CRA’s call centres and announce the return of the counter services.
Please contact Daniel Camara, Executive Assistant to the UTE National President, at (613) 290-1548, for all media requests.