Health and Safety Committee

Minutes of the National Health and Safety Policy Committee (NHSPC) Ad-Hoc Meeting

May 26, 2020

DATE:                    May 26, 2020                             TIME: 2:00 p.m.

LOCATION:           Conference call

ATTENDEES:

Employer Representatives

Employee Representatives

Members

Dan Couture
Janique Caron (for Hugo Pagé)
Dana-Lynne Hills
Maggie Trudel-Maggiore
Heather Dipenta

Doug Gaetz (UTE)
(Employee Co-Chair)
Tracy Marcotte (UTE)
Allaudin Alibhai (AFS)
Brian Oldford (UTE)
Alnashir Ravjiani (AFS)
 

Secretary David Walsh  
Observers

Andrea McKay
Chantal Monette

Mathieu Juneau
Eric L’Anglais

Guests George Koutras

Doug Mason (AFS)
Marc Brière (UTE)

This meeting was chaired by the Employee Co-Chair, Mr. Doug Gaetz.

EMPLOYEE CO-CHAIR REMARKS

The employee co-chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and mentioned that the main topic of discussion would be the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic [1] followed by a question and answer session. He also reminded members that the documents were shared prior to the meeting.

EMPLOYER CO-CHAIR REMARKS

The employer co-chair thanked the employee representatives and his colleagues for working diligently over the last few months to support employees through this pandemic. He also formally announced the departure of Mr. Hugo Pagé, Deputy Assistant Commissioner and Agency Controller, Finance and Administration Branch (FAB), effective June 15, 2020. On behalf of the NHSPC members, Mr. Pagé was thanked for his dedication in the recent months on the COVID-19 pandemic file and for his contributions to the committee.

Members were provided with a summary of the occupational health and safety (OHS) tools and guidance documents that were developed since the last ad-hoc NHSPC meeting held on March 24, 2020. This included a message for first aid and AED coordinators, a message for Health and Safety Committees, an OHS checklist, ergonomics principles, accommodation information for working from home, OHS requirements and emergency management, step by step instructions for addressing confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the CRA National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It was noted that the CRA will continue to review best practices as the pandemic evolves and public health guidance changes. Members were reminded that several CRA buildings continue to operate at a reduced capacity or are currently vacated. As the CRA looks to the future state, members will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the CRA National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic in order to determine what the gradual return to CRA buildings could look like in the coming months.

Update from the Finance and Administration Branch (FAB)

The employer representatives from FAB provided members with an update on the CRA’s approach to return to worksite planning. The discussion included an overview of the accompanying tools, including the Guiding Principles and the National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Both documents were developed with a focus on employee health and safety and the requirements of the Canada Labour Code, Part II.

Members were informed that the Guiding Principles document focuses on key considerations for management when deciding to have employees return to working  on-site in a building. These include the need to establish a strong business requirement while also considering local, provincial and federal legislation and direction. Once the guiding principles have been considered and a decision is made to have employees return to a worksite, the National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic outlines the key workplace and workforce elements that must planned and implemented prior to bringing employees back into the workplace. It was noted that the CRA documents were shared with other government departments and were well received. Management confirmed that the documents will be evergreen as new information on the virus emerges and will be updated according to new public health guidance and feedback. Supporting employees and managers will remain the priority for the CRA throughout all phases of business resumption. A number of national communications and tools are planned to help with the transition.

Members were reminded that the National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic applies to buildings that require employees working on-site each day because the work cannot be accomplished remotely, while “building re-entry” is related to temporary access to a building to pick up equipment, files or mail to support employees working from home.

The employee representatives noted that the Building Worksite Plan[2] was shared with both the Presidents of the Audit, Financial and Scientific Group, and the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE). The UTE noted that their position was that the CRA Building Worksite Plan should not be approved until the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) plan is approved. Members were also informed that return to worksite plans are being developed regionally and some concerns were raised by the employee representatives on this topic. They requested that the regionally developed documents be aligned to ensure a national approach to a return to worksites. The National OHS Section will follow-up on this issue and will inform members at the next NHSPC meeting.

Members were informed that the local Responsible Building Authorities are aware of local guidelines and of their responsibilities to support employees currently on site until the CRA provides a plan to ensure a consistent national approach. FAB is currently reviewing the TBS guide that outlines processes and requirements for temporary operational signs. In the meantime, buildings that have employees working on-site have designed temporary signs and markings to support the health and the safety of employees.

Members were informed that the CRA is focused on assisting employees and managers with both the physical and mental health aspects of this transition. A working group was created and documentation will be shared shortly with NHSPC members. 

In addition, members were informed that the CRA is participating in an interdepartmental working group related to field employees that was created with a focus on the health and safety of employees during in-person visits or meetings with the clients occur during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OPEN QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION / ROUND TABLE

The following questions were addressed:

Can the CRA confirm who is included in the 30% occupancy level?

The CRA confirmed that the 30% occupancy level is not a target to achieve;  rather, it is a guideline, and includes all occupants in the building, such as both public and private sector tenants and contractors.

Can the CRA share the guide for federal workspaces for temporary signs and markings used currently in the opened buildings?

The National OHS Section will share the document with the NHSPC members. Offices with their own signage will be requested to review and align with the TBS signage requirements once released.

Can the CRA share the list of opened buildings and number of employees working in these sites more frequently?

The National OHS Section will provide the latest critical services on-site presence list and the CRA COVID-19 Task Force reporting summary document to NHSPC members. These documents will be shared with members more frequently.

Can the CRA provide a timeframe on the Building Worksite Plan?

The CRA will integrate some additional timelines and comments as the development of the Building Worksite Plan moves forward.

How will the federal government approach the Building Worksite Plan?

It is anticipated that all deputy ministers of federally regulated workplaces will be asked to develop business resumption and building worksite plans based on business requirements, federal guidance and provincial realities.

The employee co-chair closed the question and answer session and invited all employee representatives with additional questions in regards to the building worksite documents to provide them to him and he will send them to the Assistant Director, National OHS Section.

Mr. Doug Mason stated that the building worksite documents are comprehensive and recognized the work that has been done during this extraordinary initiative. Mr. Mason also recommended that the issue of temporary re-entry of field workers into taxpayer locations be referred to the NHSPC for consideration.

Finally, Mr. Marc Brière noted that he was in agreement with Mr. Doug Mason’s comments and added the importance of taking into account the mental health of employees when considering the need to re-enter the office or to continue to work remotely. He noted that the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) maintains the position of no re-entry for non-critical workers.

CLOSING REMARKS

Mr. Doug Gaetz thanked everyone, on behalf of the NHSPC members, for all of the work being done in the background to support the health and safety of employees. He noted that many questions are anticipated from the field during this difficult time. He also reiterated the importance of continuing to work together moving forward.

Mr. Dan Couture thanked the union presidents for participating in the meeting and advised that their feedback would be taken into account and incorporated to enhance the products. He noted that the CRA should continue to strive be a leader in its response to the pandemic throughout the public service.

Dan Couture

Doug Gaetz

Dan Couture
Employer Co-Chair
National Health and Safety
Policy Committee

July 27, 2020

Doug Gaetz
Employee Co-Chair
National Health and Safety
Policy Committee

July 27, 2020

Date

Date

 

[1] Subsequent to the National Health and Safety Policy Committee of May 26, 2020, the “Building Re-Occupancy Protocol” terminology has been modified to “CRA National Worksite Protocol During the COVID-19 Pandemic”.

[2] Subsequent to the National Health and Safety Policy Committee of May 26, 2020, the “Building Re-Occupancy Plan” terminology has been modified to “Building Worksite Plan”.