BETWEEN THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES (UTE) AND THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY (CRA)
The Commissioner, Michel Dorais, chaired the meeting and began by welcoming everyone. The Commissioner reiterated his commitment to attend the NUMCC meetings and stated that, since his arrival at the Agency, the relationship between the Union and Management had matured as a result of working jointly, discussing issues and agreeing and disagreeing openly and constructively.
Betty Bannon, National President of UTE, agreed that the relationship had indeed matured and that the parties had had open and frank discussions on various issues, fostering good Union-Management relations. However, the Union President raised concerns that full consultation had not taken place on certain aspects of a major initiative involving the harmonization of audit ranges but the Union was prepared to continue to work with Management on this issue. The Union President then stressed the importance of the NUMCC meetings as they provide Senior Management the opportunity to hear first-hand the concerns and issues of employees as brought forward by their union representatives.
Management pointed out that employees across the country had viewed the Agency 2010 video and were given the opportunity to provide feedback. Regional reports were consolidated and indicated a high degree of employee support and commitment for the Agency’s direction. However, employees expressed reservations as to the CRA’s ability to ensure a balance between support for core business activities versus new business growth. Management stated that the Agency needed to continue to show its effectiveness and efficiency with respect to its core activities in order to attract new business.
Management then stated that numerous critical projects would be undertaken to support the Agency 2010 Vision such as the Branding exercise; a Readiness Review of the Agency’s ability to expand into new business opportunities; a business development strategy; and a service delivery strategy. Management expected that most of the initiatives would reach conclusion by the end of the fiscal year. Management reiterated its commitment to keep UTE up-to-date as these projects moved forward.
The Commissioner took the opportunity to state that he expected to see growth in the next four years, adding that determining where and how the workload would be distributed would be a great challenge. Some of the Agency’s new business included the Ontario T2 Initiative, the administration of the Alberta 2005 Resource Rebate cheques, the Universal Child Care Benefit Program, and supporting the Softwood Agreement.
The National President indicated that, although it supported Management in seeking new business, the Agency needed to ensure that additional resources were obtained, given the current heavy workloads. As to the Ontario T2 Initiative, the Union mentioned that it had recently received an update and reiterated the need to be involved in the early discussions to assist with the transition of new employees and to identify potential issues of concern for current Agency employees. The Commissioner stated that the Union would be brought in early in the process.
Competency Based-Human Resources Management (CBHRM)
Management stated that a meeting with UTE had been held on March 3, 2006, to further consult on certain staffing issues. Since that meeting, two memoranda were issued to address the concerns raised by the Unions on various occasions. The first, entitled “Disclosure of information”, was shared with the Union on March 20th while the second one, entitled “Enhancements to Improve the Staffing Process (Formerly PQP Quick Hits)”, was shared on March 28th and outlined improvements that would be made to the staffing process.
Management also took the opportunity to note that two review committees had been established to further examine the Union’s concerns regarding recourse and staffing. The Union was given the opportunity to meet the committee members in early May. UTE stated that the meeting with the Competency-Based Human Resources Management (CBHRM) Advisory Committee had been a good experience and that it was cautiously optimistic that its comments and concerns would be taken into consideration.
Management stated that recommendations emanating from the Committee deliberations were expected to be presented to Management in July. Subsequently, Management would meet with the Union to discuss the recommendations and the next steps.
Observe and Attest
Management stated that implementation of the Observe and Attest (O&A) Initiative was progressing at various rates across the Agency and that local plans, regarding the timing of training and information sessions, were being met. In addition, some of the informal feedback indicated that employees had a better understanding of competencies after they had completed the training session.
Management then mentioned that the working group previously established to discuss O&A in Tax and Call Centres had been mandated to look into how the initiative would be implemented for the term population. The working group was expected to present its recommendations to the CBHRM Advisory Committee in June, for consideration.
Management stated that the regions had been advised not to discuss the issue of recourse during the training sessions and that O&A facilitators/coaches had also been provided the same message during several conference calls. The Union was asked to advise Management if such discussions continued to take place.
The Union asked whether any managers had not been successful in meeting the threshold level on the three managerial competencies and, consequently, were unable to attest their employees. Management replied that approximately 300 attestations had been completed to date; however, a statistical analysis had not yet taken place. Management agreed to look into the issue and get back to the Union.
UTE then expressed frustration to have learned earlier that a legal opinion on the O&A initiative, which the Union had been expecting for some time, could not be shared due to solicitor-client privileges. Management acknowledged UTE’s disappointment and agreed to share the essence of the legal opinion with the Union.
Management noted that on May 15, 2006, the Union had been provided with a copy of the memo sent to the regions on the No Currency Policy pilot underway at specific Tax Centres. Management expected to have the results of the pilots in October 2007 and would share them with the Union at that time. Management also confirmed that on January 17, 2006, the Agency had written to the financial institutions, around the pilot locations, advising them of the No Currency Pilot and that a copy of the email had been provided to the Union.
Management then mentioned that preliminary feedback indicated that taxpayers were accepting of the “no currency” initiative. Service agents continued to ensure that taxpayers were made aware of the alternate payment options available and provided them with the necessary documentation to make the payment through their financial institution.
The National President expressed concern that some offices that were not identified as pilot sites may have been implementing the No Currency Policy. Consequently, the Union asked that the list of the pilot sites be shared. Management agreed and also took the opportunity to mention that the No Currency Policy would not have an effect on employment levels.
UTE reiterated its concerns with the Agency’s decision to implement the No Currency Policy. In response, the Commissioner noted that the Agency’s original decision was to close the payment counters completely and that, as a result of Union consultation, the Agency modified its decision. He cited this outcome as a good example of what can happen when Unions and Management work together. Management committed to working with the Union to bring improvements.
The Commissioner stated that changes to the Enquiries Counters were not to be viewed as a reduction in service, but as a transformation of the current service provided by the Agency. The move from “walk-in service” to “service by appointment” was considered to be an enhancement to the CRA’s services.
Management mentioned that only 4% of taxpayers currently received their services at the tax counters, while 48% used the telephone and 47% used the Web. Since February 2006, “service by appointment” was piloted in thirteen TSOs. The majority of the visitors were directed to the telephones that were linked directly to a CRA Call Centre. Management was also pleased to report that 95% of the taxpayers expressed satisfaction with the level of service received and that most the information requested had been available through the “My Account” initiative.
The Union continued to be of the view that by withdrawing certain services, the Agency was further alienating taxpayers. Management replied that the goal of many of the initiatives was to encourage taxpayers to use alternate services such as the Internet and Call Centres.
The Commissioner then proceeded to provide an update on issues discussed during a separate meeting held with the National President. He explained that requests for change of addresses could be made by phone using the 1-800 line. As to “print on demand” and its cost effectiveness, this initiative had been in place quite some time before the Expenditure Review Exercise and the purpose was to invite people to use an alternate service instead of printing at the counter. A taxpayer could request a specific form or document by phone, which would be mailed out within two days. However, in emergency situations, the form or document could be obtained by visiting a TSO where the documents could be printed off, using one of the terminals. Management stated that the savings stemmed from no longer having to stockpile huge inventories of forms across the country.
In the case of Taxpayers wishing to verify their income for various social assistance situations, the Taxpayer Services Debt Management Branch had established a direct electronic link with those social programs in the provinces. As long as the taxpayer provided consent, those organizations would be able to contact the Agency to confirm that individual’s income. This approach proved to be quite successful for all parties. In addition, for individuals looking to obtain a mortgage, the notice of assessment would be sufficient to provide a financial institution.
The Union went on to express concern that its members were unhappy with the level of service they were providing, which had a direct impact on employee morale. The Commissioner stated that employee morale seemed to vary greatly from office to office and that, consequently, Management and Union needed to work together to identify those offices to address the morale issues.
UTE also asked about the number of ongoing pilots, as it had come to the Union’s attention that offices appeared to be conducting their own pilots, regardless of whether they were targeted pilot sites. The Union stated that offices not involved in the pilot should be conducting business as usual. Management agreed to share the list of the pilot locations with the Union. Furthermore, Management stated that the results of the pilots would be available by the end of June and would be shared with the Union as soon as they were available.
At this point, the National President took the opportunity to ask whether the CRA would consider ceasing the implementation of the “service by appointment” initiative if it proved unsuccessful. The Commissioner replied that Management would continue to make the necessary changes to ensure a successful implementation across the Agency.
The Union thanked the Agency for the opportunity to express their concerns and stated that it would continue to inform Management of any situations negatively impacting its members. The Union concluded by stating that it continued to be opposed to only providing “service by appointment”.
Client Services Survey
The Union requested to meet and be provided with the methodology used for the Client Service Survey. Management agreed.
Management stated that, following the December 2004 Kreway adjudication decision, the CRA adhered to the corrective measures. The Agency then considered the impacts of applying the Kreway Decision on a broader scale. As it was determined that the effect on program delivery would be significant, the Agency decided to maintain the status quo. Management added that the Directive on Preferred Status would be amended accordingly.
The Union expressed disappointment with the CRA’s approach taken in the decision to maintain the status quo since the decision could have been used as another tool to place employees of lower level positions. The Union stated that it was not their intent that Kreway be used as a first option but that it be “an” option that could be used.
Permanent Lateral Move Versus Reasonal Job Offer
Management stated that the CRA’s goal was to maximize employment opportunities for indeterminate employees affected by WFA situations, primarily ensuring that, wherever possible, alternative employment opportunities were provided. Permanent Lateral Moves (PLM) and the Reasonable Job Offers (RJO) were avenues the CRA used to place affected employees. The intent of the PLM staffing mechanism facilitated the placement of affected employees with their consent, prior to being advised that their duties have ceased to exist. These employees would be provided with similar WFA provisions, such as training and relocation.
The Union stated that it fully supported the use of the RJOs rather than PLMs, as employee rights would be guaranteed under the Workforce Adjustment Appendix of the collective agreement. Furthermore, while the use of PLMs may offer Management flexibility, it also provides opportunities for abuse and raises concerns regarding the rights of member. The Union expressed concerns with delays in issuing RJOs, due to the requirement to obtain surplus letters from Headquarters. The Union recommended cutting through some of the restrictions surrounding the use of RJOs.
Management mentioned that when a copy of the Terms of Reference for the National Joint Workforce Adjustment Committee were sent to the regions, it took the opportunity to remind the field that local/regional Workforce Adjustment Committees needed to be established when dealing with WFA situations. In fact, Management noted that local committees had since been established in various regions. The Union was pleased to hear that committees were being set up and was also encouraged by the progress made to date on the WFA issues.
Management noted that consultation meetings had been held to discuss the CRA’s draft WFA Guidelines and that it was in the process of revising the documents, based on the feedback from the Unions. In response, the Union indicated that it was very pleased with the level of consultation and commended Management and Unions for the productive work and dialogue on the issues. The Union stated that while the parties agreed to disagree at times, UTE was committed to working through the issues with the CRA.
Work Assessment Project
Management stated that while the Work Assessment Project continued to be a good news item, the Project had been put in abeyance due to a number of significant priorities within the Branch. This being said, work would resume shortly and was expected to be up and running by the start of the next fiscal year. Furthermore, Management agreed to meet with the Union and provide a status update on the project.
Management stated that, following the January 31, 2006, meeting where the Unions made a presentation to the National Committee of Champions of Official Languages on their various concerns, a letter was received from UTE outlining its concerns with the linguistic designation and staffing of bilingual positions. Management advised that it expected to be in a position to provide a response within the next few weeks.
Management went on to note that a great deal of work had taken place over the past months to address the Union’s concerns. An additional million dollars was injected into the language training program annually, beginning with the current fiscal year. Branches and regions have been asked to submit their funding requirements so that the central fund could be distributed. To increase access to language training across Canada, the CRA was in the process of identifying suppliers who could respond to the overall organizational training needs. Also, draft guidelines were being developed to assist managers in identifying employees that would be eligible for additional language training. Management would consult the Unions once the draft guidelines were available. In addition, Management would explore options that could facilitate employee access to bilingual positions, while still respecting the policies of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency.
The Union asked if the CRA had given any thought to resurrecting the exchange program whereby an employee would work in an environment conducive to learning the second language. Management replied that, while the CRA did not have a national program in place, many exchanges were already taking place between some regions.
UTE also asked for the status of the official languages analysis being conducted to alleviate the impact of staffing bilingual positions on an imperative basis. Management stated that the analysis had not yet been completed and did not expect the results to be available to share with the Unions until the fall.
The Commissioner reiterated his full support for the Union-Management Initiative (UMI) and that while UMI was moving in the right direction, the parties needed to rekindle the initial enthusiasm and promote UMI within their respective organizations. As a note of interest, Management mentioned that UMI had been incorporated into managers’ performance agreements for 2006-2007.
The Union agreed that UMI had not moved along as quickly as expected and had reached a roadblock around the costs relating to the roll out. Management replied that the issue was being considered and that a decision would be provided shortly.
The Union then asked to be provided with copies of the final UMI video. Management agreed.
Joint Term Employment Study
Management stated that on May 24, 2006, the Union was provided with the status of the Term Study Action Plan and a copy of the final Term Commitment Report that confirmed that the Agency had met its commitment to convert at least 25% of the term population to permanent status. The Union mentioned that there continued to be some discrepancies in the Term Commitment Report and would provide the CRA with any potential anomalies that required verification.
UTE also stated that, although discussions on the term issues had not moved as quickly as it expected, the Union was pleased with the progress made at the May 24th meeting and that Management had been receptive to UTE’s comments. However, the Union was concerned that it had not been involved in the seasonal analysis. In response, Management stated that it had agreed to arrange a meeting with the Branches and the Union in the fall to explore the seasonal employment.
Management noted that the Union had also been provided with an update on the development of the National Manager’s Toolkit at the May 2006 meeting, and advised that it would be in a position to seek the Union’s feedback on the initial draft, by the end of June 2006.
The Union went on to ask whether the importance of the Term Committee Recommendations had been communicated to the regions. Management replied that memos had been issued to the field in recent months to raise awareness of the need to manage long-term employees and that efforts would continue to be made to improve the management of terms.
Management had also advised the Union at the May 2006 meeting that the Directive on the Management of Terms would be approved shortly and distributed to the field. UTE expressed concern with the delay in finalizing the Directive stating that it was critical that the information be disseminated as quickly as possible to the field. The Union also asked that Management consider issuing a separate memo/guidelines to the field regarding the two-year review of term situations. The Union’s position is that the review should be a one on one review with the employee and their Manager and not just a paper review.
Management stated that it remained fully committed to the Term Study Action Plan.
Taxpayer Services and Debt Management Pilot Projects
On May 9, 2006, Management provided the Union with an update on the Business Transformation within the Branch, as well as the four pilots that were expected to be completed by the end of June. A complete list of pilots, as well as the results, would be shared with the Union once the information became available.
Management also agreed to keep the Union up-to-date on the different pilot projects and stated that it would be in a better position to provide more concrete information at the next Taxpayer Services Debt Management Branch meeting scheduled for the fall.
The Union asked if regional management had the discretion to permanently fund the Terms working in the National Intake Centres (NICs) and the Regional Intake Centres (RICs). Management replied that the Regions had the autonomy to manage their resources.
As to terminology used when discussing new projects, Management recognized that there continued to be confusion, for example, the use of “pilot” versus “phased-in implementation” versus “temporary funding”. As well, Management noted that pilot projects needed to have a start date and an end date. Consequently, given the number of issues that needed further discussion, it was agreed that the issue of pilot projects be placed on the agenda for the next NUMCC.
Agency Classification Standard
Management stated that the ACS website would be available on Infozone shortly and would serve as the primary communication vehicle for the SP Project.
The work on SP continued to progress and a commitment had been made at the Agency Management Committee to ensure that all the work descriptions would be written by the end of June, at which time the evaluation of the SP jobs would commence. The next challenge would be to work around the upcoming vacation schedules, as the CRA worked towards being conversion ready by the fall. Management also explained that the BETA (user testing) results would be shared with the Union, as they became available.
The Commissioner reiterated that the CRA and the Union had both dedicated considerable time and effort to moving this initiative forward and he was pleased with the results to date. The Union agreed that a great deal of good work had been done and was also pleased with the progress.
Essential Services Agreement
Management stated that further to discussions held at the December 8, 2005 NUMCC, both parties indicated a willingness to negotiate an Essential Services Agreement outside the collective bargaining schedule and before the legislated timeline. Consequently, on December 20, 2005, the Union was provided with an activity schedule, outlining the steps to be followed over the coming months. As of June 8, 2006, the CRA was on target with the established timetable.
The parties agreed that the next ad hoc meeting on this issue would likely take place in the fall.
UTE stated that although the PSAC-CRA collective agreement did not expire until October 2007, the Union had begun preparing for the next round of bargaining. The Union reiterated that it would be looking for an intensive and continuous bargaining schedule that would call for both parties to remain at the negotiating table until a tentative agreement or an impasse was reached. Furthermore, UTE expected the CRA negotiators to have the mandate and the full authority to make decisions.
The Commissioner shared the Union’s desire to conclude an agreement as expeditiously and efficiently as possible and that, as always, the CRA negotiators would have a clear mandate and the authority to make decisions. However, it would not be realistic to expect the parties to remain at the negotiating table until an agreement was reached, as the process required the parties to fully discuss and examine all proposals surrounding issues and implications, as well as consider other possible solutions. To achieve those objectives, either party would need to further re-evaluate the proposals and/or conduct additional research on matters arising from the discussions. The Commissioner was optimistic, however, that the shared goal for an agreement would move the process forward.
The Union requested that the parties meet in advance of the next round of negotiations to discuss collective bargaining arrangements and to exchange appropriate information such as the negotiating team members. Management agreed.
Union Leave / Pensionable Service
Management agreed to meet with the Union to further discuss the pension impact of union leave.
The National President took the opportunity to reiterate her request to meet the Board of Management, on an informal basis. The Commissioner replied that the decision to meet with the Union rested with the members of the Board of Management and that the National President would be notified as soon as a decision had been rendered.
The Commissioner stated that while the meeting dealt with some difficult issues, the environment remained respectful and resulted in many good discussions. He went on to wish everyone a safe and happy summer holiday.
Original signed by Original signed by
Canada Revenue Agency
October 10, 2006
September 25, 2006