Technological Change Committee

Minutes of the Technological Change Sub-Committee Meeting

November 9, 2011

BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES

OPENING REMARKS

Ms. Arlene White, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Benefits Services Branch, and Management Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting.

The Assistant Commissioner was confident that the Technological Change Sub-Committee would continue to build on the good work conducted over the past number of years. She also drew attention to the ongoing need for respect and mutual cooperation that had been the trademark of the participants.

Mr. Doug Gaetz, Union of Taxation Employees, Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region and Union Co-Chair, also welcomed everyone to the meeting. He was happy to have joined the Committee and was looking forward to a productive meeting.

KEY CARD SYSTEM – SUDBURY TAX CENTRE

Management stated it would be installing a new identification card access system at the Sudbury Tax Centre (TC). More specifically, adding revolving doors with card readers at the main access points. While the changes were proposed in part as an efficiency measure, Management believed that the new technology would control access, provide increased security for employees, and reduce CRA reliance on the physical presence of security guard contractors. 

The timelines for the initiative had not yet been finalized; however, the target for implementation was 18 months. Management continued to explore contracting options, developing specifications, and reviewing existing models. As well, discussions with Public Works and Government Services Canada would be required given that the building was Crown-owned.

The Sudbury TC employed two SP-03 Security Clerks, two SP-05 Security Officers, and one MG-04 Security Manager. Upon reviewing the work descriptions of these employees Management was of the view that these positions had responsibilities associated with access control systems and would require training on the new equipment. They did not anticipate any human resources impacts.

The Union enquired as to whether the access system was the first of its kind in CRA. As well, they asked Management to share the work descriptions of the employees who would be using the new technology as UTE wanted to ensure that the wording clearly demonstrated the required duties.

Management replied that the Ottawa TC had a similar turnstile entrance. Since both offices were in the same region they had been able to assess the challenges experienced in the Ottawa TC and address those issues at the Sudbury site.

Management agreed to provide UTE with a copy of the work descriptions.

ADOBE TO ECO FOR MANUAL NOTICES

Management explained that the Notice Production team consisted of 21 FTEs (SP-02) across the country with representation in each Tax Centre, as well as the International Tax Service Office, and the Ottawa Technology Centre. These employees prepared manual notices of assessment or reassessment when generated notices were not possible. The output was approximately 250,000 notices per year across the various business lines.

Employees were working with a version of Adobe Acrobat Approval 5.0 software which was no longer supported; therefore, a change was required. In working closely with the Information Technology Branch (ITB), it was determined that the most logical option was to utilize an existing system. A decision was made to move to the Enterprise Correspondence suite of products as of October 2012. In order to assist in the transition, tools and training would be provided to employees performing those duties. In addition, employees in other business lines, e.g. GST and Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA) were already using this system and would be able to provide assistance. As the nature of the work was not changing, no human resources impacts were anticipated.

The Union asked Management to confirm that the modifications were strictly software changes and not an alternation to the work. Furthermore, UTE asked if the technology was adaptive.

Management confirmed that the change was strictly software related. They also confirmed that the technology was adaptive. 

MY ACCOUNT FOR INDIVIDUALS - BENEFITS

On May 30, 2011, the following three modifications were implemented for the My Account for Individuals – Benefits sup-application: a usability change that facilitated use for external users, the introduction of new provincial programs (the Ontario Energy and Property Tax Credit and the Northern Ontario Energy Credit), and the full access for legal representatives to their clients’ information.

An additional three changes were planned for February 2012, which included the removal of the current marital validation status logic and redirection to the new Change My Marital Status application, as well as changes relating to the Common Look and Feel Guidelines and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Management stated that the changes related to the Common Look and Feel and Web Content were the result of a court case requiring all content to be accessible for persons with disabilities. The Agency had until July 2013 to comply with the court ruling or at least demonstrate that significant progress had been made.  Management offered to provide an update at the next technological change meeting on the progress concerning the access of files to persons with disabilities.

Management expected to be in a position to continue providing updates to UTE on client service improvements and enhancements to My Account, Represent a Client, and My Business Account over the next several months. That said, no human resources impacts were anticipated.

While UTE preferred to see its members doing the work, Management explained that with the evolution of My Account, the work would become much more interesting for employees.

TRUST EXAMINATION AUDIT SYSTEM

Prior to December 2009, employees had utilized Trust Examination Software System (TESS) to complete their trust examination work. As of December 2009, the software was no longer supported and ITB was asked to replatform the system.

In the interim, an Excel based system, Trust Examination Audit System (TEAS) was created. Despite its temporary nature, Management has implemented various changes and updates to TEAS such as connecting all users to a common database. They recognized that such changes added some additional keying for the users; however, these modifications created the ability to verify the results of workload selection and operational reporting.

The replatforming of TESS continued and the system would be ready to move to production in 2012/13. Prior to general release, Management had opted to conduct additional testing on TESS to verify system integrity and to fix any anomalies. Additional testing would be conducted through a pilot in each region but this phase was not expected to begin for several months. Management stated that Trust Examiners both in Headquarters and the field would be involved in the testing process. Management recognized that thorough training would be required in order to ensure that employees could readily adapt to the system. Given that one of the UTE representatives on the Committee was also a Trust Examiner, they asked if the Union would be interested in participating in the testing, as well as the Train-the-Trainer sessions.

UTE agreed to have its committee member participate in the testing and the Train-the-Trainer sessions. The Union went on to ask how long the Agency had been working on the TESS system and if more detailed information would be provided on the pilot.

Management stated that work on TESS had been ongoing since December 2009 and they anticipated that the new system would be implemented in the next fiscal year. They also agreed to provide additional details on the pilot once available.

WRITTEN UPDATES

The Committee agreed to remove the following items from the future agenda: Third Party Privileged Management, My Payment – Interac Online and T3 Redesign.

CAS Sustainability

The Union asked for a correction to the written update to indicate that on June 10, 2011, an update was provided on release 4 only. Management agreed.

The Union noted that the written update did not include the French translation and corresponding acronym for Sharable Content Reference Model. Management would provide the Union with the translation.

The Union asked for the timeframe for the close-out report. Management stated that the date was not yet know but would advise the Union once it was determined.

The Union asked if the list of release 5 functionality was an all inclusive. They had heard that new functionality would be added regarding Change of Hours. Management would get back to the Union.

Electronic Transfer of Accounting Data

The Union asked why they had not received a copy of the Report. Management would look into providing UTE with the report prior to any other consultation taking place.

The Union asked for the full name of the acronym BIRM. Management would confirm that it stood for Business Intelligence Research Modelling.

Compliance Systems Redesign

Management stated that a meeting would be scheduled with the Compliance Programs Branch to provide a more fulsome explanation to the changes taking place given that this item could have an impact on SP Auditors in the future.

GST/HST Pre-Assessment National Inventory

The Union asked if the French translation was correct. Management explained that the word “pre-assessment” referred to the pre-assessment of a return and that GST items were sometimes difficult to translate. 

Management would look into the possibility of a reference guide to assist in distinguishing the GST terminology.

Removal of Electronic Filing Exclusions

Management explained that electronic filing exclusions were reviewed annually in order to make improvements in the process. Processing fewer paper returns would have an impact of 3.62 FTEs nationally, based on take-up rates.

The Union noted that in the past, Management had not distinguished between determinate and indeterminate employees and asked that Management continue with that practice. Management agreed.

Mandatory Electronic Filing

The Union expressed concern over the wording which referenced managing human resources impacts by training staff to complete other work. UTE was of the view that whenever retraining of staff was required; the HR impacts would be greater than the written update implied. The Union suggested that both parties meet to further discuss this matter. Management noted that the take up rates for electronic filing impacted everyone and agreed to meet with the Union.

My Business Account

Management stated that the changes regarding My Business Account would improve service for Canadians, especially since the take-up rates had been rising every year. The next goal, tentatively set for March 2012, was to add functionality to the process that would allow clients to submit their enquiries through the My Business Account portal. A pilot site had not yet been selected for this initiative.

The Union asked whether take-up rates were expected to increase and whether the CRA had considered the potential HR impacts resulting from this initiative.

Management was hopeful that take-up rates would increase; however, the change would create a shift from process workers to knowledge workers. While the training for employees would be a significant consideration in the transition, it would be more interesting for employees in the long term. An update would be provided at the next meeting.

Third Party Privileged Management

Management confirmed that the new functionality had been implemented in October 2011.

Automated Benefits Application

The Union noted that the background information in the written update did not clearly explain the technology and asked that the information be provided in the written updates. This would prevent having to search through potentially years of previous meetings minutes to find the relevant information.

Management explained how Automated Benefits worked and the advantages to the clients (i.e. faster receipt of benefit cheques). Six provinces were now onboard; Management noted that as each province was added there was a greater potential for impacts.

UTE questioned the last sentence in the written update which stated that the technology had not yet been implemented. Management clarified that the statement referred to a system enhancement to automatically update mid-year address changes.

UTE also asked for additional information on the address change enhancement. Management would include the information on the next update.

Taxfiler Representative Information System (TRIS)

The Union requested information on the HR impacts of TRIS. Management would get back to the union.

Secure Online Services

The Union asked if there were any anticipated dates/locations for the pilots.

Management anticipated piloting in the New Year specifically with e-Documents, followed by e-Payments at a later date. Management offered to provide a more detailed update on this subject as it was important for UTE to know the history given the possible future impacts. More detailed information would be available in June 2012. 

T3 Redesign

Management stated that T3 had been postponed due to the current fiscal environment and the small amount of returns. For the present this item would be removed from the agenda. If there were any future developments, UTE would be informed.

T1 Redesign

The T1 Redesign was a significant project ($251 million over 10 years) aimed at sustaining the infrastructure of processing systems. As a result, Management conducted extensive consultation in all seven TCs, to be followed by the branches.

Local unions had been invited to participate. Management welcomed any suggestions from UTE on the T1 Redesign.

The Union asked for a presentation to the Tech Change Committee on T1 Redesign. In addition, UTE stated that should a consultation session be held in Ottawa, they would like to send a representative. Management agreed.

The Union also asked to be provided with any feedback that had been received to date. Management would look into the Union’s request.

Automated Printing of Taxpayer Requested Print-Outs – Taxpayer Services Agent Desktop

The Union asked why implementation had only been in Summerside when the initial information mentioned both Summerside and Winnipeg. Management believed it could be because there was not enough volume for the two locations but would look into the matter and get back to the Union. Further updates on Print to Mail would follow at the next Tech Change meeting.

Debt Management Call Centre (DMCC)

Management stated that the Agency had received accolades in the International Benchmarking Exercise for the Debt Management Call Centre. They went on to acknowledge the good work conducted by CRA employees, UTE members.

The Union asked if the blended environment had been reported in June 2011 as it did not recall being provided with the information. Labour Relations agreed to look into UTE’s question.

ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS

The Union noted that three items appeared to have been removed from the written updates. Labour Relations explained that two of the written updates had been placed on the verbal agenda; however, they would look into the one item and get back to the Union.

The Union suggested that a participant list be included in the minutes. Labour Relations would look into UTE’s request.

The Union asked if the Technological Change minutes could be produced in 30 days rather than the 90 day timeframe. Management stated that while they would endeavour to complete the minutes in a timely manner there were numerous levels in the revision, translation, and approval process that significantly impacted the length of time required to complete the minutes.

The Union asked if it was possible to receive abridged versions of the presentations in order to facilitate their note-taking and assist the interpreters as well. Management would look into the Union’s request.

The Union offered to host the meetings at the national office, specifically because of their requirement to have translation and recording services at their union committee meeting held in the morning, thus eliminating the requirement for a duplication of services. Management appreciated the offer but the meetings would continue at the Conference Centre.

Management asked for UTE’s recommendation should there be few or no agenda items for any of the future meetings. Management stated that it wanted the meetings to be an exchange of thoughts and ideas rather than information updates. The Union agreed with Management and stated that it preferred a face-to-face verbal exchange rather than written updates. In addition, UTE would appreciate being provided with demonstrations of technological change items, if possible.

TERMS OF REFERENCE (TOR)

The Union recognized that the Committee was a sub-committee of the National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC). That said, they requested an open discussion on the feasibility of creating a separate Terms of Reference (TOR) specific to the Tech Change Sub-Committee. UTE was of the view that stand-alone TOR would better define the purpose and parameters of the Sub-Committee and provide clarity on issues such as authority to travel for meetings.

Labour Relations explained that it was not within the jurisdiction of the Tech Change Sub-Committee to amend the existing NUMCC Terms of Reference, that would be a decision for the Commissioner and the UTE National President. That said, Labour Relations would be able to provide the Union with an email confirming the details of the meeting to support their travel requests.

CLOSING REMARKS

The Union thanked everyone for participating in the meeting and was appreciative of the open exchange of information.

Management appreciated the Union’s perspective on the issues and thanked everyone for their contribution during the meeting.

Original signed by

 

Original signed by

Arlene White
Assistant Commissioner
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency

Bob Campbell
National President
Union of Taxation Employees

Date: March 2, 2012

Date: February 26, 2012