BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
Ms. Betty Bannon, National President, Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone. She then invited Mrs. Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, the Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), to make her opening remarks.
The Commissioner also welcomed everyone to the meeting and took a moment to extend her best wishes to Lysanne Gauvin, Assistant Commissioner, Taxpayer Services and Debt Management Branch (TSDMB) on her upcoming retirement and thanked her for her valuable contribution to the organization throughout the years. Betty Bannon also wished Lysanne Gauvin a happy and healthy retirement. Betty also congratulated the Commissioner on her one year anniversary and thanked Peter Estey and Claude Tremblay for graciously speaking at two UTE Conferences.
The Commissioner then took the opportunity to congratulate both the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the CRA negotiating teams for their dedication which led to an early collective agreement. She stated that carving out another chapter in the history books was an amazing feat, and, once again, demonstrated the good work accomplished by both parties.
The Commissioner was proud to report that CRA employees had raised a total of $3,865,575 as part of the 2010 Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC). She acknowledged UTE’s valuable support for the GCWCC throughout the years, and recognized the role played by the national, regional and local Unions.
Since the last National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meeting, 48 ad hoc Union-Management meetings had been held on a variety of subjects such as the Taxpayer Relief Initiative, Taxpayer Services Debt Management Branch initiatives, GST/HST Organization, as well as Job Content and Effective Date Grievance Procedures. In addition, Management had also presented UTE’s Executive and Labour Relations Officers with briefings on the Internal Affairs Investigation Process, the Conflict Resolution Process, and the Managing Injury and Illness ProcessTool.
The Commissioner encouraged everyone to continue to raise or address any concerns through Labour Relations.
The National President was pleased that the Commissioner and Senior Management were at the table to hear the Union’s concerns, first hand, as the NUMCC forum was an integral part of the Union-Management foundation. Furthermore, it demonstrated Management’s support of the NUMCC process, and emphasized the good relationship between the CRA and the Union.
The Union was pleased with the number of meetings that had taken place since the last NUMCC, and on that note, UTE asked to meet to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CRA and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), Auditing, Financial and Scientific (AFS) Group. The Union also asked to meet on the Dragon Software given that its members continued to have problems using the application. Management agreed to set up the requested meetings.
Management stated that the Service Strategy had been implemented in 2009-2010, and that the Union had been consulted early on during its development. Management provided UTE with a brief overview of the three measurable objectives, and also mentioned that the Agency had met 14 of the 16 standards outlined in the Service Strategy.
The Service Standards Review Project confirmed the relevance of the Agency’s standards, and over the next two years, Management would focus on achieving them and responding to the recommendations. Management noted a strong growth for self-service uptake, and stated that gains should continue due to a number of initiatives, such as Secure Online Services and the Authentication Management System. Furthermore, despite external factors such as the current economic situation, Management was pleased to note that good progress had been made toward increasing the level of satisfaction for overall service quality among individual taxpayers who had direct contact with the Agency.
The Strategy was underpinned by a group of projects and activities which would continue to advance in support of its three broad initiatives: expanding the suite of self service options; optimizing the telephone channels; and, strengthening outreach and communication in support of tax and benefits administration. Management stated that all the initiatives identified had been fully or partially implemented during the Strategy’s first year.
The CRA would closely monitor the Strategy’s implementation and operating environment and would make any necessary adjustments.
The Union asked if Management anticipated conducting a review of the measurement tools. Management stated that a great deal of time had been invested in getting the right measurement tools, and that it was satisfied with the results produced.
Management stated that in the 2010 Budget, the Minister of Finance announced the Government’s strategy for eliminating the federal deficit. One of the elements of the strategy incorporated the decision that operating budgets for all federal departments and agencies, including the CRA, would be frozen for three years at their 2010-2011 levels. As a result, the Agency needed to fund internally all cost increases relating to its current programs and services, such as salary and workload increases. The Agency estimated that the increased internal operating costs would be in the range of $180M by 2012-2013.
The Agency initiated a two-part strategy to manage the challenges. To begin with, reviews were undertaken to determine whether the unfunded operating pressures could be reduced. Secondly, an Internal Review Exercise (IRE) was conducted to identify opportunities for responsible realignment of planned spending. Decisions were not expected until late December or January.
The Agency had a successful legacy of undertaking periodic realignment exercises in the past; therefore, the current exercise was not unusual. That being said, this year’s exercise was the largest, and it would be a challenge to implement without having some impacts on the Agency’s programs and services, as well as its workforce; however, the Agency was committed to minimize the impacts. For example, the CRA would endeavour to set aside current or future vacant positions to ensure that they were available for employees that may be impacted by realignment decisions. In addition, the workforce impacts would be managed, as much as possible, through attrition and the use of re-training and redeployments.
Management went on to provide information on the Staffing Management Plan, which would provide consistency in the oversight of internal, external and interdepartmental staffing activities across the CRA and minimize impacts on CRA employees. The Plan also outlined the principles to effectively support “responsible staffing realignment” across the organization, including open communication with CRA managers and employees, respect for collective agreements and the protection of indeterminate employees. Furthermore, there would be an increase in approval levels for staffing actions during the IRE. The Assistant Commissioners and Branch Heads would approve temporary staffing for longer than 12 months and permanent staffing, including administrative conversion of term employees. An Agency Management Committee (AMC) sub-committee would approve all external, student and interdepartmental appointments, other than term appointments in support of tax filing programs. The Human Resources Branch would monitor staffing actions and report quarterly to AMC. Historically, the CRA effectively managed previous business changes; however, with the Staffing Management Plan, the Agency would be better equipped to manage the changes ahead. Management would provide the Union with regular updates as the Plan moved forward.
The Union asked to be provided with an advance copy of the Staffing Management Plan. UTE also requested that the Regional Vice-Presidents and the local Union representatives be briefed before the Plan was implemented.
The Union was firmly committed to working with the Agency throughout any Workforce Adjustment (WFA) situations in order to minimize impacts, as well as bringing other options to the table such as alternations. The Union stated that it had a good track record of working with Management on the National WFA Committee, and that UTE’s input on the IRE would be beneficial to the CRA and the Union membership. The Union also commented on what it considered to be unsound logic for the Government of Canada to introduce cut-backs in the CRA, the major source of funding for the Government.
Management stated that it valued its employees and recognized that the organization’s successes were as a result of their knowledge, competencies and commitment. As in the past, the CRA would do everything possible to manage the IRE in a manner that allowed Management to respond to Government priorities, while at the same time, continue to minimize the impacts on the workforce.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to thank UTE for its contribution, and expressed the importance of working together.
PROVINCIAL SALES TAX ADMINISTRATION REFORM
Management stated that since June 2009, a number of meetings had taken place with UTE, to share information and discuss various aspects of the Provincial Sales Tax Administration Reform (PSTAR). Initially, the focus had been on the project rollout, followed by the Human Resources Agreement (HRA) negotiations which started last fall with both Ontario and British Columbia (B.C). Since the conclusion of the negotiations, a great deal of work had gone into preparing for the implementation of the HRAs.
On November 5, 2010, Management met with UTE to provide an update on the status of the Wave 1 employees from both provinces, and on the job matches for Wave 2 provincial employees. Additional information was also shared on various topics, including the regional employee transition/change management plans, the PSTAR training for existing and onboarding employees, as well as the wind down of the joint project governance with the Provinces. The focus would now be on the regional implementation, and the ongoing Union-Management communications, at the regional and local levels.
Management was pleased to note that the employee transition was going well, and that the new employees had received their first pay on time. Management then took the opportunity to thank UTE for its support throughout the transition process.
The Union asked how the Referendum being held in B.C. would impact the CRA and whether there was a termination clause contained in the Human Resources Agreement.
Management stated that the Referendum was strictly a provincial matter. That being said, the Agency is responsible for administering the HST in B.C. while respecting the terms of the HRA in place between the CRA and the Province. Management’s focus continued to be fulfilling this responsibility. A termination clause was likely included in the agreement negotiated by the Department of Finance with the Province, which governed the administration of the HST; however, it was not part of the HRA.
The Union then asked whether experience gained in GST/HST SP-07 and SP-08 jobs would be recognized when employees applied for either Income Tax or GST/HST auditor positions.
Management replied that the GST/HST prepayment experience would continue to be considered relevant for the purposes of qualifying for AU positions in the GST/HST stream. The nature of the prepayment examiner/screener’s work was of a limited scope and/or involved less complex examination/audit work. Therefore, when staffing senior level positions, such as AU-03 and AU-04 jobs, Management would seek a more varied work experience. Prepayment experience would normally be accepted if combined with more in depth audit experience that would usually be acquired when carrying out the duties of an AU type job. To be considered for AU positions in either the Income Tax or GST/HST business lines, employees would need to demonstrate that they meet the educational requirements, and have the depth and breadth of experience in audit-related activities. The placement of employees would continue to depend on the position being staffed and the needs of the organization.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION TRAINING
Management stated that there had recently been differing views from members of the National Conflict Resolution Committee as to who should provide the Conflict Resolution Conversations, Part 1 training. However, the Union had since been provided with a proposal that would see the course be given jointly by the Bargaining Agent, Management, and the Conflict Resolution (CR) Advisor. The proposal would be further discussed at the next meeting of the National Conflict Resolution Committee scheduled for early February 2011.
Management mentioned that the Union’s support and participation in the CR Training Program was extremely important. It was also essential to include the CR Advisors in the training delivery to ensure that employees fully benefited from the CR skills development aspect.
The Union was satisfied with the proposal, and strongly advised that the CRA not wait until February to move the matter forward. The Union would like to see the revised approach to training ready for implementation by the end of March 2011. Management would get back to the Union as to whether it would be feasible to do so.
In order to avoid any such misunderstandings in the future, the Union suggested the drafting of the commitments/decisions during the Committee meetings and obtaining agreement from all participants prior to moving forward. Management agreed.
UTE asked to meet with Senior Management to discuss the role of the National Conflict Resolution Office (NCRO), and the mandate of the National CR Committee. The Union also stated that consistency in the Committee membership was crucial to moving the issues forward in a timely manner. Management would look into the issues raised and schedule a meeting between the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch and UTE early in the new year.
Management reiterated its ongoing support for the Union-Management Initiative (UMI), and stated that it would be pleased to re-sign the UMI philosophy.
Both parties agreed that a second signing would provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the UMI process. UTE drew attention to the fact that while the UMI philosophy had been adopted across the country, there were still some locations where its application was non-existent.
The National Union-Management Steering Committee was scheduled to meet in February 2011, and would be asked to include the re-signing of the philosophy in the UMI sustainability plan, as well as prepare the appropriate documentation for signature.
The Union also noted that it was not looking to re-brand UMI. However, this issue would be a matter for the National UMI Steering Committee.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND ESSENTIAL SERVICES
Management commended the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) negotiation teams for their hard work in reaching an agreement within six days of face-to-face negotiations. In addition, Management congratulated the Union for their diligent work in expediting the ratification process, which allowed the CRA and the Alliance to officially sign the collective agreement on October 29, 2010, two days prior to the expiry date of the previous agreement.
During the collective bargaining process, both parties were able to address key issues as a result of the open and cordial communication protocol. Management attributed a large part of the success of this round of negotiations to the
well-established and strong relationship between both parties, and considered it to be a great step forward.
With respect to future negotiations between the CRA and the PSAC, UTE stated that it did not want any interference from outside sources. Secondly, UTE clearly articulated that it would never agree to negotiate employee severance with the Employer and would reiterate this position at every opportune moment. This position had been well supported by the UTE membership.
As a follow-up to the discussion held during collective bargaining, the Union would be contacting Management to further share its proposal on the use of seniority as an option to approve vacation leave.
On another note, Management stated that an Essential Services Agreement (ESA) had been reached and would be signed shortly, by all parties.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to thank all the participants for their input, especially concerning the dialogue on the IRE communication products. She encouraged everyone to continue meeting to address matters as they arose, at the appropriate level and through the various forums available.
The National President reiterated how important it was to have Senior Management at the NUMCC, and thanked everyone for their attendance.
Both the Commissioner and the National President wished everyone the very best of the holiday season.
|Original signed by
Canada Revenue Agency
Original signed by
April 29, 2011
April 14, 2011