Letter to Treasury Board President

March 30, 2016

The Honourable Scott Brison, P.C., M.P.
President of the Treasury Board
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Brison:

I am the National President of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE), a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), representing more than 25,000 members who work for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).  In my November 10, 2015 letter to the Minister of National Revenue, I outlined the history of the creation of the CRA and our difficulties in achieving a collective agreement for our members, despite being at the negotiating table with the CRA for more than three and a half years.   Our frustrations continue with the lack of meaningful discussions with a view to concluding a fair and reasonable collective agreement. 

During the campaign, your party spoke of the need to revitalize and expand the CRA and to make it more effective and ensure that taxpayers pay their fair share and that outstanding amounts owing to the Government of Canada are collected to fund and provide vital services to all Canadians. It is the members that we represent who provide those very services of which you spoke. These hard working and dedicated employees consistently strive to effectively and loyally perform these duties and deliver the mandate of the Government of Canada despite decreases in human resources, funding cutbacks, service deterioration and program eliminations. Moreover, our members continue to be proud employees and efficient public servants despite constant attacks by the predecessor government, low morale, attacks on their pensions and sick leave, and the failure to be afforded a fair and reasonable collective agreement despite long and protracted contract negotiations.   

During the campaign, your leader also stated that he knew “that each and every time a government employee comes to work, they do so in service to Canada, with a shared mutual goal of improving our country and the lives of all Canadians”. We share and appreciate these views. It was also stated that “respect and trust for our public servants by the federal government has never been so low” and we also agree with this analysis. Your party stated that it saw the public service as a partner and that the public service should be “valued by Canadians, and a source of pride for its members” and we are heartened by this statement.  Your party also committed to “respecting the labour rights of public servants”.

As stated in my letter to the Minister, when the CRA was created and operated at the bargaining table at arm’s-length with Treasury Board, we were successful in concluding two collective agreements before their expiry. This is historic as this has never occurred previously or since in the entire federal public service.   In reality, we created a new approach for harmonious and productive labour relations between unions in the federal public service and the Government of Canada through their delegated bargaining authorities.  This new era of labour relations and mutual respect was overridden by an ill-conceived and ineffective amendment to legislation by your predecessor government, reinstating Treasury Board’s control over the bargaining process within the CRA through an Omnibus Bill.   

The Prime Minister stated during the campaign that he “has a fundamentally different view than Stephen Harper of our public service” and we are confident that this is one of your values appreciated by all Canadians, including the members of the public service. We hope that this fundamentally different view includes effective, efficient and respectful collective bargaining between the parties.    

In the just-released budget, there were funds set aside to improve the CRA and to restore service to the Canadian people. In the message from the Commissioner on the budget to the employees of CRA, Mr. Treusch stated: “We are very pleased to note that this includes measures to support the priorities of the Minister of National Revenue and the work of the Canada Revenue Agency, with a total investment exceeding $1 billion over the next five years.

Top highlights for the CRA:

  1. Improved service to Canadians – The CRA will focus on being a service-oriented organization, so that Canadians get the benefits they are entitled to, especially low-income Canadians and newcomers. An investment of $185.8 million over 5 years, beginning in 2016-17, will support improved telephone access, easy-to-understand correspondence, and increased outreach for vulnerable and low-income Canadians, including Indigenous peoples.
     
  2. Combatting tax evasion and tax avoidance – Tax evasion reduces the integrity of the tax system, and we will concentrate our efforts on cracking down on tax evasion and avoidance, for both individuals and businesses. A proposed investment of $444.4 million over five years will help the CRA take additional measures, such as hiring additional auditors and specialists, and increasing verification activities.
     
  3. Enhancing tax collections – The success of the CRA’s compliance efforts depends on assessed revenues being collected. The budget proposes to invest $351.6 million over five years for the CRA to strengthen its ability to collect outstanding tax debt.  This new funding is expected to lead to the collection of an additional $7.4 billion in tax debt over five years.

The next few years will be an exciting time for the CRA. This substantial investment in our programs is a testament to the importance of the work you do, and we know we can count on your continued dedication as we work together to produce results.”

We emphasize the last line of Mr. Treusch’s communique wherein he states: “This substantial investment in our programs is a testament to the importance of the work you do, and we know we can count on your continued dedication as we work together to produce results.”   I have received numerous communications from and have spoken with many of our members and your employees and I must advise you that their general sentiment is that they believe that their work is not valued and that they are not being treated as partners in delivering the CRA’s programs and your Government’s priorities. These beliefs flow from the failure to conclude a fair and reasonable collective agreement after forty months.  

Accordingly, we respectfully request your intervention in providing the employer’s negotiating team with a new mandate, in line with the principles and values of the current government and in consideration of your appreciation and respect for the federal public service. Finally, we ask for your cooperation in returning the bargaining process to what  it once was as created by the Liberal Government of 1999, that being one of independent  negotiations between the CRA and the UTE-PSAC without the interference of Treasury Board.  In fact, to this point, in a meeting I had with you in 2013, when you were the Liberal Party’s Revenue Critic prior to coming into power, you voiced confusion as to why the Conservative Government in power would return collective bargaining in the CRA to the influence of Treasury Board.   You supported this by asking the rhetorical question  “why fix something that is not broken”.   

We thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter and invite you to meet with us at your earliest convenience to discuss ways to expedite the bargaining process and to further explore how we may improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the CRA.

Sincerely,

Robert Campbell,
UTE National President

c.c.: The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P.
        Andrew Treusch, Commissioner of Revenue

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