BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
Betty Bannon, National President, Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone. The Commissioner, Bill Baker, also extended a welcome to all in attendance.
The Union mentioned that Marcel Bertrand, Regional Vice-President, Quebec Region had been unanimously chosen to receive the Assistant-Commissioner Award in Partnership with Unions, by the Quebec Regional Team and the Regional Union Representatives. UTE considered this award to be quite an achievement and an open recognition of the healthy union-management relationship.
Mr. Baker took the occasion to congratulate Mr. Rod Quiney, Assistant Commissioner, Pacific Region, who had accepted a two-year assignment with the Simon Fraser University, prior to his retirement. He went on to state that this was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with a post secondary institution and build a link to the CRA within the academic community. The Union thanked Mr. Quiney for his commitment to working with UTE on issues of concern and wished him much success in his future endeavours. In turn, Mr. Quiney acknowledged UTE’s professionalism and dedication to ensuring a healthy and productive workplace.
The National President was very pleased to state that a tentative collective agreement had been reached before the expiration date (October 31, 2007) of the previous collective agreement. She went on to note that this was largely due to a strong level of commitment between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and UTE. The approach taken during bargaining sessions illustrated the Union-Management Initiative (UMI) at its best. The National President stated that UTE had been more actively involved in joint Union-Management bulletins, communiqués and training throughout the year, which further confirmed the good rapport between the Agency and the Union. While there would continue to be times when Management and the Union would agree to disagree on certain issues, this tentative collective agreement served as an example to the rest of the Public Service of the solid working relationship between the Union and Management.
The Commissioner also expressed his appreciation to both negotiating teams for reaching a tentative collective agreement in record time. The effort put forth at the bargaining table demonstrated the progress that can be achieved when both parties shared the common goal of resolving issues. He emphasized the importance for Union and Management to join together at every level of the organization to promote an environment of cooperation and trust. Furthermore, he encouraged the continued resolution of issues as they arose and at the lowest possible level, rather than raising them at the National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meetings.
The Commissioner was pleased to note that Union and Management had agreed to a new Conflict Resolution Policy. He also mentioned that since the last NUMCC meeting, Management had met with UTE on 38 occasions to dialogue on various issues such as student employment, Print-to-Mail Consolidation and Strategic Review. Management also held preliminary discussions with the Unions on the Public Service Renewal initiative, which was an ongoing Government priority.
The Commissioner was encouraged to hear that UMI was rolling out across the country and noted the difference this initiative had already made within the Agency. He took the opportunity to reaffirm his personal commitment to UMI and looked forward to an update later in the meeting.
Lastly, the Commissioner was proud to report that further to the commitment to help those in need, CRA employees raised a total of $1, 250, 000 as part of the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC). He acknowledged and recognized the Union’s valuable support for the GCWCC by encouraging its members to get involved in the Campaign.
On another note, the Union asked to meet with Management, outside of the NUMCC forum, to discuss the matter of Labour Relations issues, such as leave, related to pandemic planning. Management agreed.
The National President was very pleased to mention that the collective agreement between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) was officially signed on December 3, 2007. She stated that the historical significance of this collective agreement would be held up as an example to the rest of the Public Service for years to come. The Union emphasized that both parties bargained in good faith and made great strides during negotiations to achieve such an important result. The National President cited the term roll-over as one of the significant improvements realized, but would have like to have achieved a 3 year roll-over like the rest of the Federal Public Service. UTE extended its congratulations to the negotiating teams and hoped that the same approach would be followed for future collective bargaining processes.
The Commissioner stated that the ratification of the collection agreement with the PSAC confirmed that the CRA had exercised its separate employer authorities responsibly. The Board of Management also recognized that the signing of the collective agreement was an example of the work that could be accomplished when both parties were determined to meet their goals and objectives.
On another note, Management went on to state that the Agency remained committed to negotiating an Essential Services Agreement in accordance with the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The National President was also committed to working together to finalize the Essential Services Agreement and agreed that UTE would provide its feedback on the essential services proposals.
AGENCY CLASSIFICATION STANDARD
Management stated that the Advance Employee Notification was issued to employees on November 6, 2007, followed by the December 3, 2007 release of the Official Employee Notification. Management expected it to take approximately six months to implement pay actions associated with the ACS-SP conversion. Now that the conversion was deemed official and the project completed, the CRA and the Union would begin addressing the classification grievances stemming from the conversion. The Memorandum of Understanding to deal with the classification grievances had recently been signed between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and would significantly streamline the process.
Management went on to note that the work accomplished by Management and the Union on the Agency Classification Standard (ACS) was unprecedented in the Public Service. Management took the opportunity to thank the Union for its valuable input throughout the process. The success of the project was due in large part to the constructive working relationship between the CRA and UTE representatives.
The Commissioner congratulated both parties for the excellent work conducted on this project. He stated that as a separate employer, the CRA was successful in completing the ACS-SP project with the Union’s collaboration for the good of the employees and the organization, and also become a leader for the rest of the Public Service.
Management stated that the Agency Service Strategy had been part of the Agency 2010 Project but it proved to be an even better fit with the Commissioner’s new priorities for operational and workplace excellence. The document would provide the functions with a series of guideposts as they began to explore changing their service delivery for the future. The CRA would focus on building a better knowledge base that would result in informed decision-making, integration across functions and jurisdictions, and would emphasize the importance of human resources and communication throughout the service delivery initiative. Management agreed to provide the Union with a draft copy of the Agency Service Strategy in January 2008.
The Union noted that during the collective bargaining process, it was successful in negotiating a provision in the collective agreement that defined the terms and conditions under which employees could be brought into the Agency through a new business acquisition. Consequently, the Union asked if the Agency had been considering any other new business opportunities. The Commissioner stated that the Corporate Tax Administration of Ontario initiative had been the main focus for some time and that the emphasis would continue. However, there were no plans for the Agency to take on additional work at this time.
COMPETENCY BASED HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Management stated that the recommendations from the Job Competency Profile (JCP) Working Group had been approved by the Agency Management Committee (AMC) and were currently being implemented. Furthermore, the Competency Consultants (CC) Working Group Report and recommendations would be presented to AMC shortly, and the Individual Feedback Working Group (IFWG) had recently finalized its recommendations. Management noted that while the essence of the Individual Feedback Working Group recommendations was that extensive information was available to employees and managers, it was not easily accessible. Management would look into developing a more simplified search method. It also mentioned that a memo had been issued to the field addressing some of the specific changes resulting from the JCP Working Group recommendations, to date. Furthermore, a joint Union-Management Recourse Process Working Group had been established to discuss recourse in a more global context and would be meeting on December 11 and 12, 2007.
Further to the last National Union-Management Consultation Committee meeting, a communication strategy had been developed to ensure that all employees were made aware of the work undertaken by the Competency-Based Human Resources Management (CBHRM) Advisory Committee. Two communiqués had been issued in July and October while the “Plans for the Future” document was scheduled to be released in mid-December. All three documents would be available on Infozone.
The Union commended the joint Union-Management Working Groups for the good work accomplished on the various resourcing issues. The Union also appreciated being provided access to the CBHRM Advisory Committee, and that Management had taken the Union’s concerns seriously as evident by the recommendations. While the Union agreed to disagree on the issue of recourse, it maintained that the working groups were a very good example of meaningful consultation.
OBSERVE AND ATTEST
The Union expressed concerns that the Observe and Attest (O&A) competency assessment process was not being adhered to in that managers were asking employees to provide examples of how they demonstrated their behavioural competencies and/or to draft their own assessments. UTE requested that a communiqué be issued to the regions to clearly outline the O&A process. Furthermore, UTE asked that consideration be given to situations where employees did not wish to be assessed as they were close to retirement or were satisfied to remain in their current job. The Union was of the view that O&A should not be mandatory.
Management acknowledged the Union’s concerns and would issue an Observe and Attest Directive that should alleviate the Union’s concerns about attestations. The Union was asked to inform Management as soon as it became aware of situations that were not in line with the O&A Directive.
Management stated that early in October, Larry Hillier, UMI Champion, along with the UTE National President and the PIPSC AFS Group Chair, signed a joint Union-Management communiqué, which provided employees with an update on the progress of the Union-Management Initiative (UMI) implementation. Management then noted that the overall UMI rollout was progressing well given the size of the organization. The regional train-the-trainer sessions had been completed and, to date, three regions had completed Phase I of the UMI training. In addition, each region had nominated a contact to facilitate the exchange of information between the National UMI Steering Committee and the regional committees. Management stated that this was another fine example of the good work conducted by a Joint Union-Management Committee.
The Commissioner reiterated his commitment to the Union Management Initiative (UMI) and stressed the need to continue reinforcing the benefits of UMI, especially with the arrival of new employees. He also stated that it was important to address issues as they arose and mentioned that the Agency Management Committee continued to keep a close watch on the UMI progress to ensure that it was rolling out, as intended.
UTE stated that Management and the Union had invested a great deal of time and energy into moving this initiative forward and, while a few challenges still remained with the rollout, the workforce would reap the long-term benefits of UMI.
Management was also pleased that the Board of Management had approved the Agency’s new Conflict Resolution Policy, following consultation with all stakeholders, including the Unions. A national communiqué signed by the Commissioner of CRA, the UTE National President and the PIPSC-AFS Group Chair, was issued to the field on December 5, 2007.
FUNDING FOR TERM EMPLOYEES IN CALL CENTRES
Management reiterated the points made at a November 20, 2007 meeting, on the funding of terms at Call Centres. The effective scheduling of term employees allowed managers to meet call demand peaks periods that were multiple and varied, and ranged from seasonal to hourly, as well as the periodic demands resulting from legislative announcements, political events, and situations outside of their control. Term employees provided the necessary flexibility in meeting this variable demand. Management also mentioned that the CRA was not trying to save money on pensions and benefits by reducing or limiting employee’s hours of work.
UTE stated that it was looking for more secure funding for the Call Centres, which would provide term employees with stability in their lives. The Union went on to mention various concerns that needed to be addressed, such as the inclusion of hours of work for pensionable time, performance assessments and constant shift changes.
While these issues were not on the agenda, Management confirmed that, contracts with agents were amended (generally quarterly) to reflect the new schedules as the need to increase hours for agents to address call demands were identified. Furthermore, the compensation site updated the employee’s records to ensure the change in hours was included as pensionable time.
The Commissioner noted that he had had the opportunity to visit four Call Centres and was impressed with the dedication and optimism of Call Centre employees. He went on to state that they were an important part of the CRA workforce, and the organization wanted to maintain a positive work environment that encourages employees to do their best.
Management offered to meet with the Union to provide a full briefing on Taxpayer Services including resources, pension and benefit issues, and fluctuating demands for services.
JOINT UNION-MANAGEMENT TERM EMPLOYMENT STUDY
Management provided the Union with an update on the Joint Union-Management Term Employment Study.
On October 15, 2007, Management informed the Union that all the Term Study Action Plan recommendations had been implemented. The one exception pertained to the additional hours worked by part time term employees in excess of their assigned work week, and the fact that it was not considered pensionable time. As this item was outside the Agency’s jurisdiction, Treasury Board Secretariat had agreed to analyze the matter and provide the Agency with a decision. Management committed to provide the Union with an update on the pensionable service issue, as soon at it becomes available.
Management stated that after January 2008, all the information sessions on term employment to the Regions would be completed. It also confirmed that that the regional and local Union representatives had been invited to attend the sessions. Both Management and the Unions had provided very positive feedback on the delivery of the sessions.
On the matter of seasonal employment, the Union stated that it agreed to disagree with Management’s decision not to use seasonal employees in the Agency.
Management then drew attention to the fact that effective November 1, 2007, term employees who had accumulated five years of service, without a break of 60 days or more anytime during the accumulation of this service, would automatically be converted to indeterminate. From
November 1, 2007 and forward, conversion of term employees would continue on an ongoing basis where there was no break in service of 30 days or more since November 1, 2007. Management had provided UTE with the list of term employees who would be impacted as a result of this change in policy for validation. In addition, an employee who had completed 12 months of cumulative service, in any position or at any level, would be recognized as having completed the requisite probationary period. This was considered a tremendous move forward in support of term employees within the Agency.
Management also took the opportunity to thank UTE for its participation and the good work conducted throughout the process.
The Union stated that while the more complicated compensation cases were brought to the attention of the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, and were being addressed, employees continued to be frustrated and stressed with the inconsistency of the day-to-day advice being provided by compensation advisors. As a result, the Union asked that the Agency consider placing a compensation expert in each local office, or as a minimum, one or two compensation experts in each region to deal with the complex cases.
The Commissioner reminded the Union that the compensation service delivery model was still considered to be a work in progress and that the CRA was diligently working towards addressing and resolving the compensation concerns. He went on to state that the solution was not to spend resources at the expense of other programs and services but to continue to improve the compensation model. Although Management would not be providing additional compensation resources in either the local or regional offices, a meeting had been scheduled between the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, the Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate and the UTE National President on December 13, 2007, to provide an update on compensation services.
Management stated that as of August 13, 2007, the No Currency Policy was implemented at all CRA payment counters. As previously discussed with UTE, CRA payment counter employees had been advised to accept cash payments in situations where taxpayers insisted on using this method of payment, but only if the exact change was provided. Since August 13, 2007, the CRA received 478,727 payments of which 769 were currency payments. Based on the feedback received from the payment counter staff, there appeared to be a high level of acceptance of the CRA’s No Currency Policy.
The Union was pleased that payment counter staff had been provided revised wording to address general taxpayer enquiries and/or handle concerns with the no currency policy.
The Commissioner and the National President thanked everyone for their participation during the meeting and extended their best wishes to all for the upcoming Holiday Season.
Original signed by
Original signed by
April 2, 2008
March 19, 2008