The year 2019 is now drawing to a close. Looking back, I cannot help but conclude that the past year has been really difficult and very frustrating for the members of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE). Indeed, the project team established by the Canada Revenue Agency for conducting a comprehensive review of its Staffing Program completed its exercise this fall. CRA senior management approved most of the recommendations submitted by the team, with the exception of several proposals being strongly advocated by UTE and PIPSC, and supported by the team. These included proposals on term conversion, seasonal employment and a fairer and more equitable model for recourse.
Although some recommendations make improvements to the Staffing Program, the vast majority of them give more flexibility to managers while reducing accountability. This leaves the door wide open to abuses of power and favouritism, which we strongly deplore.
In a subsequent meeting with UTE’s Senior Labour Relations officer and myself, the CRA Commissioner committed to studying in more depth the potential changes to be made to the administrative conversion process for term employees and the options for reintroducing seasonal employment at the CRA. At the time of writing, we are still awaiting an answer from him about this.
However, our union’s position on these matters is very clear: we are calling for greater job security for term employees, namely an administrative conversion after three years (instead of five years, as it is currently) to indeterminate employee status and the use of indeterminate seasonal employment, to the extent possible.
Term employees working in almost all of the federal government’s other departments and agencies get this administrative conversion after a three-year period, and there is no reason for our members in the same situation to be treated differently. It is high time that the UTE’s term members stop being treated by the CRA as second-class employees in the federal public service.
Also, the Canada Revenue Agency boasts that it is an employer of choice; in fact, one of Canada’s top 100 employers! Well, when it comes to bargaining, it definitely doesn’t seem that way. Although the Treasury Board is involved in our bargaining with the CRA, and though I acknowledge that its presence seriously complicates our life (thanks to Stephen Harper for having imposed that on us as of spring 2012), the fact remains that to date, the Agency has shown no willingness to respond favourably to any of our main demands. These bargaining demands come from our members and are intended to resolve major issues that UTE members working at the CRA face day after day. Does it befit an employer of choice to let a large number of its employees wait endlessly by unduly extending the period during which they work without a contract and thus don’t receive any salary increase, while the cost of living keeps rising? I think not.
We are preparing for the Public Interest Commission (PIC) hearings, which are to be held in Ottawa on January 6 and 20, 2020. However, I repeat yet again that our bargaining team is still willing to return to the bargaining table at any time in order to advance the bargaining process, but only on the condition that the employer finally shows a willingness to respond adequately to some of our main demands. We want to improve the working conditions of our members, especially the most vulnerable ones. Our members, who perform a multitude of important tasks every day, and in so doing, enable the Agency to achieve its program objectives and managers to receive hefty performance bonuses, are also entitled to recognition and respect from their employer. They, too, are entitled to decent salary increases that cover at least the increase in the cost of living. It is all well and good to hold recognition activities, but as they say, money talks, bullshit walks!
If things don’t move, and do so quickly, we will have no choice but to consider holding a strike vote after the PIC hearings and show the CRA and the Treasury Board that we are tired of waiting and that we're really serious. I fervently hope that we will not have to take this extreme measure, but at some point, enough is enough!
To be clear, I’m going to repeat it one last time: we will not wait four years without doing something before obtaining a new contract.
In the coming weeks, we must continue to pressure the CRA, the Treasury Board and all federal MPs, specifically the elected officials of the Liberal Party who form a minority government.
Stay tuned! We will provide you with more information over the coming weeks.
We must all continue to support our bargaining team and show them our support in the workplace in order to obtain a fair contract. Our strength continues to lie in our unity, with everyone pushing together in the same direction.
I would like to thank you, the UTE members, for your continued support. I would also like to thank all our representatives who are activists in the Locals and all the officers of the Executive Council (National Executive) for all the amazing work they have done over the past year.
In closing, I wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday season filled with great memories. And may the new year bring you joy, happiness, peace and prosperity!
Greetings of the season and Happy New Year!