Sisters and Brothers,
Yesterday, we issued a message communicating the Union of Taxation Employees’ (UTE’s) position with respect to the employer’s decision to the involuntary deployment of our members occupying Collections Contact Officer positions to perform the duties of Call Centre Agents. Since issuing that communiqué, we have received several queries from members as to why the UTE did not adopt a similar position with respect to our members in the Compliance Programs Branch (CPB).
With the outset of the COVID-19 crisis and the Government of Canada’s introduction of the various Emergency Response Benefits, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) was asked to assist in the administration and delivery of these benefits. As a result, CRA reached out to UTE to consult with us as to how best utilize its employees and our members in the delivery of these benefits. The CRA, pursuant to its managements rights authorities, identified critical workloads and we worked collaboratively with the Agency to enlist employees to perform the identified critical workloads.
While some of our members are already responsible for the delivery and administration of certain types of economic benefits for Canadians, UTE responded by agreeing to allow the employer to recruit additional employees on a voluntary basis to perform these duties and assist Canadians in this time of great need to receive the emergency benefits announced by the Government of Canada. CRA employees responded overwhelmingly with 7,500 volunteers stepping forward, the vast majority of whom are UTE members.
As matters evolved, the CRA identified additional critical workloads and announced them in its evergreen Business Continuity Plans. Unfortunately, CRA failed to properly consult UTE before the issuance of its Business Continuity Plans. When we learned of the CRA’s plans to involuntarily deploy our Collections Contact Officers to perform Call Centre Agent functions, we immediately intervened and voiced our dissent to the Agency.
Since the issuance of yesterday’s email, we have learned from some of our members in CPB that they too had been involuntarily deployed, despite the fact that when we discussed with the CRA the recruitment of our members in CPB, we were led to believe that these recruits would be selected from those who had already responded to the initial call for volunteers. Upon receiving this information, we again immediately contacted the CRA to voice our objections.
UTE has been consistent in its discussions with the CRA and to date have adopted the position that:
- We have and will continue to work collaboratively with the CRA with respect to the administration and delivery of the Emergency Response Benefits;
- We would work with the employer to encourage volunteers with respect to the Emergency Response Benefits;
- We would not object to these volunteers working outside their work descriptions on a temporary basis, but only in relation to the Emergency Response Benefits;
- We do not agree to involuntary deployments;
- Meaningful consultation must be held between the CRA and UTE concerning all new initiatives and changes to the Agency’s Business Continuity Plan.
As previously mentioned, we have not agreed to members being involuntarily deployed or being assigned duties and functions outside of their work descriptions to perform duties associated with the normal Call Centre workloads.
As a result of our interventions and ongoing discussions with senior officials of the Agency, the employer has now committed to suspend their actions to move Collections Contact Officers onto Call Centre Agent workloads until the conclusion of our consultations.
We also heard some concerns from our determinate (term) members that they are anxious about their continued employment and we are currently in discussions with the Agency with respect to this important matter. Rest assured that UTE will do everything within its power to ensure the employment security of our very valued term members.
We continue to engage in consultations with the employer and will provide you with a further update and directions upon conclusion of these consultations.