BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES
AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY
Mrs. Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, the Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to note that Peter Poulin, Assistant Commissioner, Information Technology Branch would be retiring shortly and wished him good health and happiness in the next phase of his life.
The Commissioner began by mentioning that the current climate in the Public Service continued to be challenging for the CRA and the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE). However, despite everything, the Agency had managed to uphold its excellent reputation over the years. While this may be as a result of many factors; she believed that the relationship between UTE and the Agency was a determining reason. Therefore, it was more important than ever to keep the lines of communication open between both parties.
During a recent meeting between the Commissioner, the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch and the UTE National President, a discussion was held on how the CRA and UTE could improve its working relationship. The Commissioner expressed that good Union-Management relations were key to the success shared by both parties. Furthermore, they had a shared responsibility to use every opportunity to work together in the interest of the employees, UTE members.
Since the last National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meeting, 35 ad hoc meetings were held on various subjects such as, Performance Management, Employment Equity, and the Public Service Employee Survey, to name a few.
The Commissioner also took the opportunity to acknowledge the National Union-Management Approach (UMA) Steering Committee for the excellent work done with respect to the sustainability of UMA. The signing of the Union-Management Philosophy took place on May 18, 2012.
In conclusion, the Commissioner encouraged UTE to continue to address any concerns they had in-between meetings with Labour Relations.
The UTE National President thanked the Commissioner for taking the time to meet in May. He agreed that while these were troubling times, it was possible to rise above the difficulties by working together. The good relationship between the Regional Vice-Presidents and the Assistant Commissioners, the resigning of the Philosophy, as well as the NUMCC meetings demonstrated the ongoing commitment between UTE and the CRA.
The Union went on to state that the membership was extremely stressed regarding the lack of information on the Budget impacts, which was compounded by the rumors of office closures. UTE suggested sending out another communiqué to try to allay employee’s fears. The media was also trying to obtain information from the Union; therefore, the sooner the CRA budget announcements could be made the better for all concerned.
On a final note, the National President asked that the CRA provide the Union with 48 hours notice in order to prepare the Regional Vice-Presidents.
PROVINCIAL SALES TAX ADMINISTRATION REFORM – BRITISH COLUMBIA HARMONIZED SALES TAX
Management stated that the province had confirmed that it would return to a provincial sales tax (PST) as of April 1, 2013; therefore, until that time, the CRA would continue to administer the harmonized sales tax (HST) according to the existing HST rules.
As part of the return to a PST, the province would offer jobs to all CRA employees that transferred to the CRA as a result of HST. These offers would be consistent with the provisions of the amended Human Resources Agreement (HRA) and would consider relevant legislation, policies and both the province and the CRA collective agreement obligations, as well as their respective bargaining rights. As a result, employees from waves 3 and 4 would not be offered employment with the Agency. The former HRA had been amended to reflect this agreement.
The CRA began negotiations with the province in February 2012, and on May 23, 2012, the Agency and the province of BC announced the signing of an HRA which laid out the terms and conditions by which the CRA employees would be offered employment with the province.
The effective date of employment with the province would either be April 1, 2013 (41 UTE members) or April 1, 2014 (16 UTE members). Employees receiving a job offer from the province had been invited to attend an information session in May. The employees received their job offers on June 6, 2012, and responses were due by July 4, 2012. Those who refused the offer would have access to Workforce Adjustment provisions.
Management recognized and respected the obligations to the employees, as well as the bargaining agent and should there be any new information regarding the return to GST in BC, the CRA would keep UTE apprised.
The Union asked if other CRA staff would be impacted should employees refuse the offer of employment from the province.
Management replied that while this was possible, it was premature to provide details until the human resources impact analysis was completed.
UNION – MANAGEMENT RELATIONSHIP – COMMUNICATION AND COMMITMENTS
Management mentioned that during the May meeting with the UTE National President one of the items discussed was the Union’s concerns regarding the decrease in consultation. As an Agency, Management was committed to ensuring that the consultation process was respected and aimed to work with the Union, including the understanding that there would be some instances when they were not able to consult. That said, those situations should in no way lessen the importance or benefits of open and honest communication and consultation.
The Union’s role in the organization, as well as their input allowed the organization to gain better insight into issues and concerns that surfaced in the workplace. Management quoted UTE from a previous NUMCC, “Although there would be times when both parties would need to agree to disagree, that should not prevent the CRA and the Union from continuing to work together.”
The Union stated that historically, UTE had proven many times over that they could be trusted with sensitive information. They went on to stress the importance of consistency when communiqués were issued to the field. Many national messages had major impacts for employees, such as, Shared Services Canada; however, when the information was cascaded to the regions the announcements were not clearly understood or a different interpretation was taken.
Management stated that both the national, as well as the regions involved would be prepared to address any concerns raised with respect to communiqués issued.
The Union also asked for the status of the two-year accounting certificate.
Management replied that this matter continued to be under discussion; however, no decisions had been made. The Union would be contacted once the function was ready to meet on the status of the accounting certificate.
STAFFING POLICY SIMPLIFICATION PROJECT
Management stated that work on the Staffing Policy Simplification Project was progressing well. Since the last NUMCC meeting, the consultations on the draft policy documents had been concluded and the project team was in the process of analyzing the feedback received from stakeholders, as well as reviewing the policy documents.
On May 31, 2012, Management provided UTE with a status update on the project, reviewed the changes to the policy documents and also responded to the Union’s feedback provided during consultations. The key elements of the current Recourse Directive were also discussed. The following week, Management met with the Union to talk about the Independent Third Party Review (ITPR) Directive. As a result, additional meetings were anticipated to be held over the summer.
The next steps included seeking the Board of Management’s approval on the staffing policy in September 2012. Management was hopeful that all the revised staffing policy documents would be finalized by Fall 2012.
While the Union had expressed some concerns regarding the time it had taken to reach this stage, they were very pleased with the ongoing discussions and openness of the Human Resources representatives handling the staffing policy portfolio. The Union took the opportunity to congratulate both parties on the good work and was encouraged to see the staffing policy move forward.
SHARED SERVICES CANADA
Management stated that the relationship between the CRA and Shared Services Canada (SSC) was evolving in accordance with the transition plan. The Agency continued to act under the Business Continuity Framework and the Operating Protocol which had been extended until April 2013. SSC had drafted a governance framework document that the Agency, as well as other departments, would sign once finalized. SSC appreciated CRA’s assistance in organizing priorities and overseeing operations.
The Information Technology Branch (ITB) had been restructured and consolidated within the Data and Technology Infrastructure Management Division to ensure that all 550 employees transferred to SSC were reporting to SSC managers.
Management stated that upon integration to the Treasury Board pay scale, employees would be placed on the scale based on a classification review exercise. More specifically, they would be placed on the relevant pay scale at the step closest, but not less than, their current rate of pay. The Agency had been assured that employees would be treated with fairness and respect with regard to determination of salaries and transition to Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) groups and levels. Management was currently in the last stages of the implementation of Memoranda of Understanding regarding the delivery of pay and benefits services and occupational health and safety. UTE would be kept informed on the progress of these understandings.
Management went on to add that with respect to grievances, those filed after the effective date of the Order-In-Council on matters related to SSC would belong to, and be dealt with by SSC. Furthermore, harassment complaints would now be filed under the Treasury Board Secretariat Policy on Harassment Prevention.
The Union asked if there would be impacts on the administrative staff as a result of those that had transferred to SSC.
Discussions with SSC were ongoing regarding the administrative function; however, the CRA did not expect to see any impacts to the staff that remained with the Agency.
COST CONTAINMENT PLAN
Management stated that from a financial management perspective, the Cost Containment Plan (CCP) had, by most measures, been completed. Branch and program budgets had been adjusted in order to direct efficiency savings to priority areas such as salary increases and legal services. While a few initiatives remained, the majority had been fully rolled-out.
Of the original 20 CCP initiatives with expected WFA implications, five had been withdrawn due to attrition and term employment. As of February 23, 2012, and as a result of 12 Commissioner approved initiatives, a total of 264 permanent employees had received or would receive notice declaring them affected; 97 would retain their substantive position while the remaining employees would be offered a Guaranteed Reasonable Job Offer (GRJO). Of these identified employees, 155 were represented by UTE. In addition, there were three remaining initiatives for which the analysis was on-going. Management anticipated that less than 90 additional affected permanent employees would be identified as a result of these initiatives.
Management went on to state that the Staffing Management Plan (SMP) had continued leading up to Budget 2012 and proved to be successful in minimizing the impacts. As a result of its success, there were fewer affected employees than originally anticipated. The Agency had exercised a high degree of oversight on staffing decisions and had diligently managed vacancies in order to minimize the number of potentially impacted positions. That said, Management provided some statistics from the fourth Quarter and went on to state that some external recruitment would be required in 2012-2013 in order to fill identified gaps. They would continue to keep the Union appraised of further developments as more information became available.
Management was developing a consolidated SMP report which would be shared with the Union once it was completed, likely by the end of June.
The Union expressed some concern regarding career plans for employees. It was easy to hire students/terms for a short period of time but they were concerned about what was being done for permanent staff.
Management replied that over the next six months regional offices would be discussing strategic hiring, including budget decisions and succession planning for employees.
DEFICIT REDUCTION ACTION PLAN - BUDGET IMPACTS
Although the specific details of the change initiatives related to the Plan remained a cabinet confidence, Management stated that the Agency’s budget would be reduced by $253 million (6.9%) beginning in 2016-2017. More specifically, the Agency would see a reduction to its appropriations of $15 million in 2012-2013, $87 million in 2013-2014, $225 million in 2014-2015, and $239 million in
2015-2016. An Agency Transformation team and Assistant Commissioners Steering Committee had been put in place to ensure that proper governance was in place to monitor the progress of the initiatives. Management was confident in the Agency’s ability to successfully implement the government’s decisions in a responsible manner.
The Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch stated that they were working closely with the Headquarters branches and the regions on the implementation of the Budget 2012, as well as ensuring that the Workforce Adjustment (WFA) provisions of the collective agreement would be respected. She stressed that the Agency remained committed to working with UTE to ensure a collaborative and well-managed implementation of initiatives with the least impact on employees.
On the issue of Taxation Centres, it was still premature at this point to provide any information on this item.
A portal called Resources for Managing Change had been created on Infozone to offer access to information on a wide array of topics relating to change including, but not limited to, WFA provisions, career development, employee assistance, the staffing program, and links to both the AFS Group and UTE websites. The portal has had 40,000 hits since its implementation with positive feedback.
On another note, the term moratorium was anticipated to be announced two weeks after the Budget announcement.
The Commissioner reiterated her commitment to open discussions and working together through the challenging times ahead. That said, information regarding the announcement would be shared with the Union whenever possible.
The Union continued to be concerned with the lack of information available, especially the rumours regarding the closure of Taxation Centres. It would be a relief for employees to be advised sooner rather than later of the impacts. On that note, UTE stated that it had repeatedly demonstrated that they could be trusted with information and given the major changes, they wanted to be involved as much as possible.
The Commissioner appreciated that employees were anxious to have more information and the Agency was doing everything possible to make this happen. Although this was a government wide situation and outside the control of the CRA, she had great confidence in UTE and would provide information as it was available, while at the same time respecting its commitment to confidentiality.
PUBLIC SERVICE PENSION CENTRE – RETIRING EMPLOYEES
Management explained that support for retiring employees was available through a variety of forums beginning with the Compensation Client Service Centres (CCSCs). The CCSC was responsible for issuing the employee’s final payments from the CRA, including any earned but unused annual leave and severance pay. The CRA National Enquiries Services (NES) was equipped to assist retiring employees with general information including roles and responsibilities between the two organizations and providing contact information for the Public Service Pension Centre (PSPC).
The CRA also provided employees preparing to leave the organization with a link to the Compensation Web Resource Guide which gives staff access to pertinent information. In addition, employees registered with the Compensation Web Applications on the Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) website were able to prepare their own pension estimate, view their pension and insurance benefits statement, as well as prepare an estimate to buy back any prior service.
The PSPC was also responsible for supporting employees in addressing their pension queries by providing pension benefit information, options and estimates, as well as explaining the pension administrative process and assisting in the completion of the required forms.
The CRA no longer played any role in relation to the administration and processing of employee pension accounts, nor was it able to access any employee pension information as this had all been transferred to the PSPC. In order to ensure that CRA employees were being properly served and had complete information with regards to their pension account, they should first exhaust the PSPC “complaint escalation” procedures shared with the Union in 2011.
Management also stated that while it would respect the protocols set out by the PSPC, should a specific issue fail to be reasonably resolved through the “complaint escalation” process, the Agency would be in a better position to intervene and address any referrals from employees. This had been done on several occasions in the past.
A PWGSC Certification Program existed within the PSPC where an office could request a half-day pension information session normally referred to as pre-retirement seminars. Management would provide UTE with the link to those websites.
The Union expressed concern over the length of time it took for retirees to receive their cheques. They also mentioned that it took as long as nine months or more in some situations to obtain approval from the Pension Centre for employees to buy back pensionable service. UTE had heard about cutbacks at the Pension Centre and wondered if this was causing the delays. The Union took the opportunity to thank the Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate and his staff for helping to address some of the more sensitive issues with the PSPC.
Management replied that there had been a number of changes over the past few years; however, they were not aware of any reduction in service offerings. They recommended that it would be beneficial to arrange a meeting between the Pension Centre and the CRA to better understand the issues at hand.
UTE appreciated the CRA’s efforts in this matter.
Management took the opportunity to mention the good work conducted during the previous rounds of bargaining and was confident that both parties could establish the same expeditious and cooperative process for the next round of collective bargaining.
The CRA’s negotiation team had a mandate and full authority to make decisions on behalf of the Employer. Furthermore, the Agency would be in a position to provide UTE with the list of its bargaining team members in July. Likewise, the CRA Negotiator would be in contact with the Union to discuss future meeting dates.
The Agency was analyzing current negotiation developments in the core public service, as well as other separate agencies in order to prepare for the next round of negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. In addition, the CRA was also mindful of the federal government’s cost containment and fiscal restraint initiatives. On that note, the Budget was clear regarding the accrual of severance benefits, the Agency would be required to include that item as part of the CRA mandate for the next round of collective bargaining.
The National President stated that the next round of bargaining would likely be a much longer and tougher process than in the past. That said, he hoped that both parties would endeavour to work out their differences and come to an agreement at the table. He went on to provide the names of the Union’s negotiation team members.
The Commissioner was also hopeful for a successful outcome. She agreed that the current climate was challenging; however, it would be important to go into the process with a positive mindset.
The Commissioner explained that a few Assistant Commissioners were not able to attend the NUMCC due to other commitments; however, she emphasized that much of the work was conducted in-between the meetings. She also added that other departments/agencies were envious of the relationship between the CRA and UTE; therefore, keeping the relationship strong was even more important during these difficult times.
The National President thanked the management team that attended the NUMCC and stated that it was important for all of senior management to attend the next meeting.
Both the Commissioner and the National President wished everyone a happy and safe summer.
Original signed by
Original signed by
Date: August 22, 2012
Date: August 13, 2012