MEETING BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
Betty Bannon, National President of UTE, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone. The National President was pleased to see the Commissioner in attendance, as well as most of the branch and regional Assistant Commissioners. The Union stressed the importance of the NUMCC as a forum whereby senior management could hear first-hand, employees’ issues as brought forward by their union representatives.
The National President stated that, in an effort to focus on a smaller number of agenda items during this meeting, the CRA had provided UTE with written updates, prior to the meeting, on a number of items that had been raised at the last NUMCC or during ad hoc meetings. The Union was then given the opportunity to provide feedback and seek clarification on the updates that would form part of the NUMCC minutes (Appendix A). UTE would consider whether this approach would prove beneficial in the long-term.
The Commissioner, Michel Dorais, also welcomed everyone to the meeting, and reinforced the commitment that he and all the Assistant Commissioners would be present at the NUMCC meetings. He went on to state that while he agreed that the NUMCC forum was important, it was the work that occurred in between the meetings that created the foundation for a strong working relationship. He noted that fifty-nine ad hoc meetings had been held since the last NUMCC meeting and that, while consultation on some of the issues had been challenging for both parties, Management and the Union had been able to speak frankly about their concerns, and progress continued to be made.
The Commissioner also took the opportunity to state that the CRA was experiencing solid growth and that new business, such as the Ontario T2 initiative, would be a major investment in the organization.
Management began by mentioning that since the last NUMCC meeting, the Agency 2010 website had been launched to provide updates on the initiative.
Management went on to state that it was reviewing how the Agency undertook its work to determine possible improvements, in terms of effectiveness. In addition, it continued to seek business transformation opportunities. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the CRA’s core activities, a number of information technology based renewal projects were being implemented such as the GST Redesign and the Integrated Revenue Collection System.
Management stated that the CRA had experienced an expansion of new business, in particular, the Universal Childcare Program, the Softwood Lumber Agreement and the Energy Rebate Payments. The CRA had also recently signed an agreement with the Government of Ontario to have the Agency administer the province’s corporate taxes. The two organizations had hired lead negotiators to begin discussions on a human resources agreement for the employment of Ontario staff by the CRA. However, negotiations had been delayed due to a change in the province’s negotiator. In the meantime, Management established an Infozone page that included frequently asked Questions and Answers pertaining to the Corporate Tax Administration for Ontario initiative. The Unions had been given the opportunity to provide additional questions for the website that would address potential employee concerns regarding this initiative.
Although the Union supported Management in seeking new business, it reiterated its request to be involved in the discussions on the Corporate Tax Administration for Ontario initiative early on before final decisions were made on the human resources agreement provisions.
Management stated that the Union would be consulted on the human resources issues before discussions were finalized with the Province of Ontario.
Management stated that the National UMI Steering Committee met on November 30, 2006, and continued its discussion on training and dispute resolution as it pertained to UMI. Management went on to mention that the Steering Committee members met on a regular basis, and that the exchange of information and the level of cooperation between both parties had been excellent.
Management reported that UMI Steering Committees had been established in all the regions and that, by the end of November, all members had received the UMI training. Management noted that the train-the-trainer sessions were expected to be completed by the end of the fiscal year.
Also, since the last NUMCC meeting, the Agency had agreed to cover the travel costs for both Management and Union facilitators to attend the train-the-trainer sessions, while the regional and local sites would cover costs related to the local delivery of the training.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to state that UMI would involve a major cultural change within the organization and needed to be carefully managed in order to gain long-term benefits. The ultimate objective would be to keep the lines of communication open to ensure a successful implementation. The Union agreed that both parties would need to adapt to the changes.
The Union stated that it remained committed to moving forward with UMI; however, it was also noted that it was important for all regions to understand that UMI was a joint initiative. Management agreed to reinforce the message throughout the Agency that decisions pertaining to UMI needed to be made by Management and the Union together.
UNION LEAVE / PENSIONABLE SERVICE
Since the last NUMCC meeting, Management and the Union had discussed the Union’s request regarding the Union Leave/Pensionable Service issue, given the current Superannuation Regulations and the Income Tax Act impact. Management agreed to work cooperatively with the Union to explore other legal options regarding the issue of pensionable service.
The National President stated that Compensation Client Service Centres (CCSC) were under-staffed and that compensation employees were overworked and under-trained. At the same time, managers needed to understand the importance of, and be accountable for, processing pay documents on a timely basis to avoid any hardship on employees.
UTE went on to mention that the following concerns with respect to compensation services should, in no way, be perceived as a poor reflection on compensation staff. The Union was of the view that, with the increase in the number of complaints, action needed to be taken to prevent further issues from developing. For example, simple requests for a Record of Employment or changes to mailing addresses were considered very straightforward tasks, yet problems had been encountered. The National President requested a meeting with Senior Management to discuss solutions to the various compensation service concerns. The Union also suggested that managers should be held accountable and that their Performance Leave and Performance Pay should be adversely affected where managers were negligent or otherwise unreasonable in their actions in processing compensation matters for employees.
The Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, agreed to meet with the Union in December to discuss concrete options to address the compensation service issues. Furthermore, while the mailing address issue had been a systems problem and not related to compensation services, Management would respond directly to employees in the specific cases raised by the Union to update them on their situation.
The National President opened the discussion by stating that collective bargaining should be a standing item on the NUMCC agenda. The Union went on to ask for a meeting with the Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, to discuss, globally, the collective bargaining process. The Commissioner agreed to consider the Union’s request to meet.
The Union then asked who would lead the CRA Bargaining Team and whether the CRA’s negotiator would have the mandate to speak on behalf of the Commissioner. Management replied that it would provide UTE with the name of its lead negotiator by the end of January 2007. Furthermore, while the lead negotiator would speak on behalf of the Commissioner, decisions at the bargaining table would not be made until the parties had sufficient opportunity to fully discuss and examine all the issues and implications surrounding the bargaining proposals. Management also suggested that the lead negotiators initiate discussions in early May 2007 to exchange information on the administrative arrangements, the composition of both bargaining teams, as well as other relevant data needed to prepare for negotiations.
UTE reiterated its request to remain at the negotiating table until such time as a tentative agreement or impasse was reached.
COMPETENCY-BASED HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT (CBHRM)
Management was encouraged to see that UTE would be participating on both the Competency Consultant and Job Competency Profile Working Groups, which were scheduled to meet in December 2006 and January 2007, respectively.
UTE thanked the Commissioner for providing the Union with access to the Competency-Based Human Resources Management Committee. Furthermore, UTE stated that while both parties had agreed to disagree on some issues, Management had taken the Union’s concerns into consideration when reviewing the staffing and recourse issues. This was a very good example of meaningful consultation.
TAXPAYER SERVICES AND DEBT MANAGEMENT PILOT PROJECTS
The Union was pleased to note that, since the last NUMCC, a number of national pilots had been implemented and would now be considered programs. As a result, UTE wanted to know if regional management had the funding and the discretion to move forward with work on those programs. Management confirmed that funding had been provided to the regions to best manage related workloads, which included determining the locations of the programs and the staffing approach to be taken.
The Union mentioned that, because the pilots had been permanently established, consideration should now be given to staffing the program positions on an indeterminate basis. Consequently, UTE’s Regional Vice-Presidents would be requesting to meet with their respective Regional Assistant Commissioner to discuss regional staffing plans. They would also be requesting that they be provided with the number of term and indeterminate employees within those programs.
The Union was of the view that it was premature to discuss the national rollout of the “No Currency” pilot in the written update, as the report had not been finalized.
Management replied that over 57,000 payments had been made at the pilot sites, and of those numbers, only 4 taxpayers had insisted on using cash. Based on the taxpayers’ high level of acceptance of this initiative, Management felt confident in stating that the implementation would be moving forward. That being said, Management would be in a position to share the “No Currency” Pilot Report with the Union, by
December 22, 2006.
Management went on to mention that, as per the written update, a national working group had been established to develop the guiding principles for the payment counters. The Union would be provided with a status update by mid-February 2007. Management would consider the Union’s request for a seat on the working group.
CLIENT SERVICES SURVEY
Further to UTE’s request, Management would include the date the pilot results would be available to the Union in the Client Service Survey written update.
JOINT TERM EMPLOYMENT STUDY
The Union began by mentioning that while the CRA had met its commitment to change the tenure of at least 25 % of the subject population from term to indeterminate, managers now needed to focus on the mandatory review of terms with two or more years of service, as well as the Joint Term Study recommendations.
The Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, stated that she had recently sent a memo to the regions on the effective management of terms and that a copy would be provided to the Union.
OBSERVE AND ATTEST
The National President expressed concern that changes had been made to the Observe and Attest (O&A) initiative without briefing or consulting the Union. Management replied that the Union would be kept informed of all future changes made to the O&A initiative.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to express his appreciation to two outgoing UTE Regional Vice-Presidents, Linda Cassidy and Kent MacDonald, for their valuable contributions to effective union-management consultation over the years. He wished them much success in their future endeavors.
The Commissioner went on to state that this had been a productive meeting. He further pointed out that the discussions held at the ad-hoc meetings in-between the NUMCCs ensured that workplace issues were addressed on an ongoing basis as issues arose.
The National President was pleased with the productive meeting and noted that a great deal of progress was made on issues as a result of NUMCC discussions. She then went on to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season.
Original signed by Original signed by
Date: March 27, 2007
Date: March 16, 2007