BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
Mrs. Linda Lizotte-MacPherson, Commissioner of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone. She then expressed her appreciation for the excellent work conducted over the years by George Arsenijevic, Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Benefit Services Branch (ABSB), and Susan Bowen, Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Strategies and Business Development Branch (CSBDB), and conveyed her best wishes on their upcoming retirements. Betty Bannon, National President of the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) and Union Co-chair, also wished them a happy and healthy retirement.
The Commissioner stated that although the Provincial Sales Tax Administration Reform (PSTAR) initiative was an item on the agenda, she wanted to take this time to acknowledge that the CRA had overlooked an opportunity to communicate with the Union prior to the unavoidable changes that were brought to the PSTAR Human Resources Agreement. She valued the working relationship the Agency had had with UTE over the years which, in her view, had served both parties well. In addition, the Commissioner was extremely appreciative for the professionalism demonstrated by UTE during this complex situation.
The Commissioner was pleased to note that Management and the Union had taken advantage of a number of consultation and briefing forums to discuss their issues and concerns. Since the last National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meeting, 40 ad hoc Union-Management meetings had been held on a variety of subjects such as Compensation Services, Work Assessment Checklist, Taxpayer Relief, as well as meetings of the various human resources working groups. The ongoing dialogue in between meetings clearly demonstrated the commitment by both parties to address and resolve issues at the lowest possible level. In addition to the ad hoc meetings, Management had presented UTE’s Executive and Labour Relations Officers with briefings on the Preventing and Resolving Harassment Policy, the highlights of the Managing Illness and Injury Process Tool, and the Migration to End-State PQP. The CRA also provided UTE with a Classification training session, which was well received by the Union.
The Commissioner encouraged everyone to continue to work through Labour Relations to raise or address any concerns.
Betty Bannon, UTE’s National President, took the opportunity to clearly articulate the Union’s displeasure and disappointment with the CRA’s handling of the PSTAR initiative. Consequently, the relationship between the CRA and UTE was now severely strained. The National President stated that time and effort would be required from both parties to get the relationship back to where it was before PSTAR.
The Union then went on to state that although the NUMCC agenda was light, it was important that the discussions were recorded in the minutes, to ensure that employees were aware of the good work that took place to resolve workplace issues in between NUMCC meetings.
Lastly, UTE was pleased with the May 31, 2010 Union-Management Initiative (UMI) training session held with the new Senior Management representatives. In the Union’s view, this provided Management with a heightened awareness of the UMI process and demonstrated what could be accomplished when both parties used it collectively.
The Commissioner then pointed out that June 14, 2010, was the start of Public Service Week and, therefore, took the opportunity to express her sincere appreciation to all CRA employees for their continued good work and dedication to the organization.
Management provided the Union with an update on the status of the CRA Service Strategy which was currently in its second year of implementation.
Management stated that the baseline measures had been approved by the Board of Management in December 2009 and that the 2009-2010 Annual Report would be forwarded to the Board in September of this year. The Report would measure the progress made towards achieving the objectives outlined in the Service Strategy. Management anticipated that preliminary data would likely be available in September 2010 and would be shared with the Unions; however, it was too premature to determine the final outcome. Furthermore, the Service Standards Review had been completed, and no significant changes were made. A copy of the draft Service Standards Report would be shared with the Union.
The Agency continued to move forward in terms of service and one of the priorities would be to look into the possibility of an Electronic Service Strategy; though the work would be conducted through the Assessment Benefits and Services Branch.
The Commissioner was pleased to note that, as agreed to at the last NUMCC meeting, a Union-Management Initiative (UMI) training session was held with UTE and Senior Management on May 31, 2010, which provided the new Management representatives an excellent opportunity to gain a good understanding of the issues, as well as the perceptions surrounding UMI. The Commissioner reiterated her ongoing support for the initiative.
The Assistant Commissioner of the Human Resources Branch (HRB) stated that the event not only provided the participants time to reflect on the UMI philosophy and build on the relationship, but also provided the opportunity to explore how UMI could be further ingrained throughout the Agency. The Assistant Commissioner expressed her appreciation to Betty Holmes and Jan Link for their role in facilitating the training session.
UTE also stated how pleased it was with the manner in which the UMI session unfolded. The Union then acknowledged that various circumstances had slowed down the UMI momentum; however, it stressed the importance of regenerating the enthusiasm that was evident when UMI was first launched, at all levels of the organization. The Union was disappointed that there continued to be locations where the UMI philosophy was not put into practice. In light of this concern, Union and Management representatives on the National UMI Steering Committee had gathered data from the regions to gain a better understanding of the UMI situation across the Agency. The results would be further discussed at the next National Steering Committee meeting. UTE also raised the fact that the National Steering Committee had not met as frequently as in the past and that with such pressing issues going on, the Committee should meet more frequently. The Assistant Commissioner of HRB committed to convening the Committee again soon to deal with the outstanding matters.
The National President proposed that a second signing of the UMI philosophy take place to demonstrate that Management and the Union continued to be committed to the UMI process. Management agreed to look into the matter and get back to the Union.
PROVINCIAL SALES TAX ADMINSTRATION REFORM
Management stated that on April 28, 2010, a meeting took place with the UTE National President to explain that the Agency had not anticipated the developments related to the Provincial Sales Tax Administration Reform (PSTAR) and GST/HST Business Line enhancements, nor had they expected an agreement with the other bargaining agent to be realized so quickly, if at all.
Management appreciated receiving an advance copy of the Union’s May 11, 2010 Bulletin regarding the PSTAR situation, and confirmed that the events had transpired as described in the communiqué.
The Commissioner regretted the difficult position in which the Union had been placed, and reiterated that the last minute agreement with the other bargaining agent had been totally unexpected. She personally valued the relationship the CRA had with UTE, and acknowledged that the Agency could have done a better job communicating with the Union during this period. Management reiterated that it valued UTE’s support and would work hard with the Union to re-build the relationship. Furthermore, Management would ensure that the communication between the two parties remained open.
Management anticipated that UTE would likely acquire approximately 820-850 new members in Ontario, although the final tally would not be known until the letters of offer were issued and accepted. The numbers for British Columbia were unknown as discussions between the Province and the CRA were still ongoing. A meeting would be held with UTE on the PSTAR HR impact analysis, once it was completed. Since the April meeting with the National President, a great deal of work had been accomplished, such as, the introduction of the new business line, and the establishment of the new SP-07 and SP-08 jobs that employees would be able to access through competitive processes. Management invited the Union to bring any issues forward that needed to be looked into regarding Ontario or British Columbia.
The National President appreciated the Commissioner’s opening remarks regarding UTE’s professionalism throughout the PSTAR initiative. However, she took the opportunity to reiterate and stress the depth of disappointment and frustration the Union had experienced due to the Agency’s handling of PSTAR. The Union believed it had been severely misled by the Agency and, at this point, the National President was uncertain as to whether her members’ perception of what had occurred, could be changed. The Union was proud, however, that it had worked with the CRA to incorporate the New Business Acquisitions provision (Article 7) into the current collective agreement, as it was only right to recognize the years of service of individuals, whether it was in the federal or provincial forum.
The Union asked to be advised when the town halls would be taking place, especially since some of the meetings dealt with pension issues, which was of great interest to the members. UTE also asked that the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) representative responsible for pension matters be invited to participate in those discussions. Management stated that the town hall meetings had been arranged by the Province; however, it would ensure that the Union was invited to CRA sponsored town hall meetings on PSTAR.
MIGRATION TO END-STATE PRE-QUALIFICATION PROCESS
Management stated that 113 End-State PQPs had been launched during the migration with 87 processes completed. The average time to staff the positions was 87 days and 60% of those processes took less than 100 days, compared to the 185 days for pre-End–State PQPs.
To date, all regions and branches had reported that they were ready to post End-State selection processes given the readiness of the feeder groups. Management was pleased to mention that staffing plans were posted on the regional websites and linked to the CRA Job Opportunities website, which provided employees notification of upcoming selection processes.
Management further stated that there were 171 End-State PQPs planned for the first quarter of the year; however, that timeframe proved to be overly ambitious; consequently, the number of processes was lowered to 150. Over 50% of Agency employees had achieved five or more base competencies, and approximately 70% of staff had acquired four of the base competencies. Management agreed to provide the Union with the updated End-State PQP results.
The Regions and Branches continued to maintain the momentum established during migration through various activities, and encouraged employees to use the Voluntary Assessment Program. The feedback on End-Stated revealed that, through discussions with their employees, managers had gained a better understanding of their career goals, and in turn, individuals were better able to manage their career at their own pace. The Union took the opportunity to reiterate its view that CRA employees should have been grandfathered from the very beginning.
The Union then asked to meet with the Resourcing Division to discuss the overlap of mandates and concerns surrounding the work of some of the various Human Resources working groups. Management acknowledged the Union’s concerns and stated that the Competency Based Human Resources Management Advisory Committee was finalizing a work plan that would pull together the various initiatives and address issues surrounding the working groups. Management anticipated that the draft work plan would be available for circulation by the end of June 2010.
Management mentioned that discussions had taken place between the CRA Collective Bargaining Section and UTE on such matters as the upcoming negotiation dates and the bargaining process. Management also noted that the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) intended to serve notice to bargain on July 1, 2010, and UTE’s desire to conclude an expeditious agreement, following the same process established during the last round of collective bargaining. Management would be in a position to provide feedback to the Union, as soon as the discussions with the Board of Management had taken place. Furthermore, due to the fiscal realities surrounding the upcoming negotiations, the parties would need to keep an open mind when considering all viable solutions.
UTE offered to meet with the Board of Management on the issue of collective bargaining and articulate the positive aspects of expedited bargaining.
The Union stated the Federal Government’s budget freeze announcement in February 2010, caused a stir among UTE members as to the impact it would have on collective bargaining. In response, Management confirmed that the Government imposed a freeze on operating budgets, not salaries. In other words, any increase negotiated during collective bargaining would need to be funded by the CRA’s existing budget.
On another note, Management stated that only 107 essential services positions remained in dispute with the Public Service Alliance of Canada: 61 Client Services Clerk positions / 37 Taxpayer Services Agent positions, both in Taxpayer Services and Debt Management Branch (TSDMB), as well as nine General Duties Clerk positions in Assessment and Benefits Services Branch (ABSB). After a further review, Management decided to withdraw the nine General Duties Clerk positions from the group of positions under discussion.
The Public Service Labour Relations Board confirmed that the hearing date for the remaining positions in dispute was scheduled to take place between June 22 to June 25, 2010. Management was hopeful that both parties would reach an Essential Services Agreement at that time.
The Union looked forward to a successful conclusion.
Management stated that the CRA continued to monitor both the workload and level of service being provided to employees by the Ottawa and Winnipeg Compensation Client Service Centres (CCSC). In addition, further to the February 8, 2010 meeting with the Unions to discuss the suppression of print for pay stubs for all employees, the CRA would take into consideration the Union’s concerns regarding employees without access to a computer, in addition to accommodation needs and PKI access. Compensation Services representatives would continue the dialogue with the Unions on this item, as needed. Management anticipated that the implementation date for this initiative would be April 1, 2011.
The Union noted that the communication protocol (Action Plan) involving the UTE Locals and Regional Vice-Presidents was functioning well and that the National Office had not received any compensation complaints since the last NUMCC meeting. That being said, UTE asked to meet with CRA representatives regarding the issue of buying back years of service. There appeared to be some confusion and the Union wanted to address this matter before it escalated. Management agreed.
The Commissioner thanked everyone for their input and encouraged both parties to work together towards strengthening the relationship.
Both the Commissioner and the UTE National President wished everyone a safe, restful, and happy summer.
|Original signed by Lyse Ricard for
Canada Revenue Agency
Original signed by
September 3, 2010
August 24, 2010