BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
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 after 39 years of service, Ms. Betty Bannon, National President of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) had decided to retire. Betty held various positions within UTE over the years; however, she had been the UTE National President since July 1999 and was the first woman to be elected to that position.
The Commissioner continued by stating that Betty was a leader who cared about her members, as well as the future of the Agency. She believed in the importance of Union-Management relations, in that both parties shared a joint responsibility to work together in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Betty gave the Union, as well as the CRA, many years of dedicated service and was leaving behind a strong legacy of integrity and professionalism. On behalf of the entire Management team, the Commissioner wished Betty good health and much happiness in the next phase of her life.
Betty Bannon appreciated the kind words conveyed by the Commissioner. She emphasized that the relationship between UTE and the CRA had evolved over the years and, that while the Union did not want to co-manage, it would continue to work with Management on workplace issues and build on the productive relationship.
The National President stated that there had been a number of meetings held and good work conducted with Management on a variety of subjects since the last NUMCC meeting. She stressed the importance of being kept abreast of the status of the Cost Containment Plan (CCP). She also took the opportunity to note that UTE’s view on the issue of language of work versus the language of service had not changed; employees should be able to write in taxpayer files in the language of their choice. The Union had a member who filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages; however, a decision was not expected for sometime given that it would impact the entire Public Service.
The Commissioner concluded her opening remarks by pointing out that June 13, 2011, was the start of Public Service Week and, therefore, expressed her sincere appreciation to all CRA employees for their ongoing good work and dedication to the organization.
COST CONTAINMENT PLAN (FORMERLY KNOWN AS BUDGET IMPACTS)
Management stated that the funding pressures continued as a result of the freeze on operational budgets announced in the March 2010 Federal Budget. By using a range of efficiency and other cost reducing measures, the Agency had developed a Plan to internally fund cost increases in operational areas such as legal services, postage and Appeals workloads. However, doing so limited the CRA’s ability to address any other new funding requirements for at least the next two years. As a result, the Agency continued to take a measured, low-key approach to the Cost Containment Plan (CCP), while the human resources impacts were being analyzed.
Management was currently in the process of finalizing the Human Resources Impact Analysis (HRIA). Based on demographic trends, retirements, attrition rates and funded vacancies, as well as the Staffing Management Plan (SMP) related activities, most areas of the CRA would be able to manage the CCP impacts with a few minor exceptions. With a second analysis underway, the CRA was looking at other options to minimize the impacts for employees. While the initial results were mostly positive, there may likely be some WFA situations. Management would brief the National President on the impacts once the analysis was completed. In addition, a meeting of the National WFA Committee was scheduled to take place on June 10, 2011, to discuss various WFA matters, including CCP.
Management went on to provide information on the Staffing Management Plan (SMP), which was shared with the Union in advance of its implementation. The Plan would provide consistency in the oversight of internal, external and interdepartmental staffing to minimize the impact of the Cost Containment initiatives on employees. The SMP would ensure that the Agency was well-positioned to cope with the changes ahead. Management then shared information on some of the staffing activities and committed to provide a copy of the SMP Report with the Union. It was the CRA’s intent to continue with the Staffing Management Plan beyond June 2011.
Management stated that the Agency’s financial resources would again be tested over the next few years as it implemented the CCP and developed a response to the upcoming Strategic and Operating Review (SOR) stemming from the June 2011 Federal Budget. Management noted that federal organizations were asked to submit 5% and 10% cost reduction proposals, by the Fall. The Government was expected to announce the results of the SOR exercise in the 2012 Federal Budget.
The Union strongly suggested that the Government be reminded of the Agency’s mandate to collect taxes and bring in revenues. Any cuts to the CRA means decreased revenue to the Government.
UTE was pleased that the National WFA Committee meeting had been scheduled so quickly and stated that it was important that the National WFA Committee, as well as the local and regional committees, were ready to meet as soon as the impacts were announced. The Union reminded Management that briefings needed to occur at the national level first, followed by regional and local levels. Management concurred.
SUPPRESSION OF PAY STUBS
Management stated that the Agency agreed to proceed with the suppression of pay statements for all employees, specifically, to support sustainable development and to contribute to the cost-effective delivery of employee pay statements. The suppression of pay statements for EC employees was effective December 1, 2010, and for all other employees, on April 1, 2011. Management took the opportunity to mention that other organizations such as Health Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) had also implemented mandatory suppress print.
An employee communiqué, as well as a set of Questions and Answers had been developed to address the most common issues/concerns and shared with the Union for comment. As a result of the feedback received, Management developed a list of exceptions to deal with specific situations whereby the suppress print would not be activated.
Unfortunately and due to unforeseen circumstances, the PWGSC’s Compensation Web Applications (CWA) was unavailable for the first pay period following the implementation of the suppress print. The situation was beyond the CRA’s control. However, as soon as the Agency was made aware of the situation, necessary measures were put in place to reassure employees that they would continue to receive their pay accurately and on time, and that their personal information was secure.
Employees were also advised that they could obtain a copy of their pay statements by contacting the National Enquiries Services or by submitting a Webform. Management was pleased to note that all 1600 employee requests were actioned in a timely manner.
The PWGSC worked diligently to make CWA available to employees in an expeditious manner while ensuring the security of information was protected. That being said, the account of one CRA employee was affected during this period; however, PWGSC restored the appropriate security parameters and contacted the employee to explain what occurred, how it was rectified and to assure the employee that his/her information was protected.
The Union expressed its displeasure with the mandatory suppression of pay stubs and PWGSC’s handling of the situation. UTE reiterated its request that the CRA make suppress print voluntary since not all employees had direct access to a computer; however, the Union concluded that this was a situation where the CRA and UTE agreed to disagree. Management stated that it would consult with PWGSC on the feasibility of providing employees access to the CWA from a remote location.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRAINING
Management stated that at the April 20, 2011 National Conflict Resolution Committee meeting, issues were discussed surrounding the delivery of the Conflict Resolution Conversations – Part 1. While there continued to be a difference of opinion among Committee members regarding the delivery model for this training product, the CRA remained committed to the co-delivery approach. Management then proceeded to note that a great deal of good work and resources had been invested in its planning; therefore, it was very important to move forward with the training.
In order to provide additional support, Peter Estey, Assistant Commissioner, Atlantic Region and National UMI and Wellness Champion would be available to work with the Committee and attend the September meeting to provide assistance in finding a solution to the current concerns. Management also drew attention to the fact that employees had made it known through the Employee Survey, the Respectful Workplace Campaign, and other forums that they wanted a healthy and respectful place to work. Therefore, it was important to keep working together to make that goal a reality.
UTE agreed that it was important to continue working with Management, not just for the members but for the organization as a whole. The Union expressed concerns with the current situation. In the Union’s view there were not enough Conflict Resolution (CR) advisors available to deliver the training in a timely fashion. While UTE appreciated the good work conducted by the Management representatives on the Committee, it remained frustrated with the continuous delays in delivering the training. On that note, UTE stated that the September meeting would likely be the decision point for the Union as to whether they would bring their support for the CR program to an end.
Management was hopeful that the September meeting would be productive and successful in addressing and resolving the training issues. That being said, these matters were best left in the hands of the National CR Committee to determine the best approach as this clearly fell within the Committee’s mandate.
Management took the opportunity to acknowledge the good work that the National UMI Steering Committee had undertaken to ensure the evolution and sustainability of the Union-Management Philosophy. Management believed it was important to continue to work together to ensure that the philosophy became part of the CRA culture.
The National UMI Steering Committee would be reviewing the current training material for the UMI Phase I Workshop at the end of June, to ascertain whether it continued to meet the needs of the managers and union representatives. Their goal was to explore the possibility of developing the foundation and refresher training, as well as the relationship building tools. The Committee had agreed that the Phase I training product was to be used as the building block for any additional training products that may be developed by the UMI Training Working Group starting this summer.
The Union drew attention to the fact that it was experiencing similar concerns with the UMI training as with Conflict Resolution training. There were different views as to the extent of changes required to the training course material thereby delaying the delivery of the UMI sessions. It also had concerns about decisions made at the national level that were not carried out in the regions.
UTE expected Management and the Union to re-sign the UMI Philosophy in the fall and get the message out to the field that both parties continue to be committed to UMI.
Management stated that it would be pleased to re-sign the UMI Philosophy and build on the relationship that was based on trust and mutual respect, and the resolution of issues at the lowest possible level.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND ESSENTIAL SERVICES AGREEMENT
Management commended both negotiation teams for their hard work in attaining the last agreement in such a short time frame. That being said, Management was of the view that it was premature to discuss specifics for the next round of collective bargaining; however, it wanted to continue to foster and build upon the good relationship between both parties. At this point, Management also confirmed that the Essential Services Agreement had been signed by both parties on January 19, 2011.
The National President reported that she had recently met with the Commissioner, the Chairperson of the Board of Management, as well as UTE members from across the country to reaffirm that UTE would never agree to negotiate employee severance with the Employer unless something comparable was tabled by the Agency in exchange. Moreover, the Union had the support of the membership who was willing to fight to keep their severance. As a result, the next round of collective bargaining was expected to be much more difficult.
The Commissioner acknowledged UTE’s concerns and agreed that challenging times were ahead given the anticipated impacts from the 2011 Federal Budget. The CRA was closely following the developments related to the removal of severance in the rest of the Public Service; however, the Agency had not made any decisions in that regard. That being said, the CRA would be required to adhere to any legislated changes related to severance should the Government of Canada see fit to legislate its elimination.
On another note, Management understood that both parties had discussed UTE’s proposal on the use of seniority to approve vacation leave; however, there appeared to be a misunderstanding on how to handle this request. Given that this was a specific collective agreement matter, it would be best to address this item in the collective bargaining forum.
The Union clarified that the intent had been to provide an option for managers when all aspects of a vacation request were equal. As a result, UTE would bring this item forward at the next round of collective bargaining.
The Commissioner noted the upcoming UTE elections and that a number of the current Union Executives had either chosen to run for alternate positions, retire or concentrate on other life priorities. She commended those individuals for their commitment and dedication to the UTE membership over the years and wished them all the best in the future.
The National President took the opportunity to once again thank Management for the kind words of appreciation. She was pleased to be a part of such a high caliber of individuals around the NUMCC table. In conclusion, she went on to mention that both parties had similar goals, and that the best results were always achieved because of the solid working relationship.
Both the Commissioner and the National President wished everyone a safe and enjoyable summer holiday.
Original signed by
Original signed by
August 16, 2011
August 8, 2011