Call Centre Committee

Minutes of the Call Centre Committee Meeting

July 17, 2013

In attendance: Robert Hume                  Chairperson - RVP Pacific
                         Jamie vanSydenborgh      RVP, Southwestern Ontario (Co-Chairperson)
                         Debbie Ferguson             Call Centre Representative (Saint John)
                         Luc Tailleur                     Call Centre Representative (Montreal)
                         Kent MacDonald             Staff Advisor

Brother Hume welcomed everyone to the meeting.  As this was his first meeting and first as the new Chair of the committee, he said he looked forward to working with everyone and would rely on the committee's experience as we moved forward.

1. Review of Last Minutes (November 7-8, 2012)

The Committee reviewed the previous minutes. It was noticed that Brother vanSydenborgh was listed as being both in attendance and being absent. Brother MacDonald will ensure the minutes on our website reflect that Brother vanSydenborgh was absent.

2. Discussion on March 2013 Presidents’ Conference Workshop

The Committee discussed the Workshop held during the March 2013 Presidents’ Conference and came to the following conclusions:

  1. The Committee expected the “workshop” to be a “meeting” of Call Centre Local Presidents and RVPs, not a voluntary workshop;

  2. The agenda could have been organized differently, i.e. stressful work environment should have been last on the agenda, as this item took up way too much time and the discussion was general in nature;

  3. The Chairs could have controlled the discussion better and should have had better time management;

  4. The Committee believes a “meeting” not a “workshop” of Call Centre Presidents and RVPs is a must.

Brother Hume will speak with Brother Campbell about holding some kind of meeting at the September Presidents’ Conference along with a holding a greater forum for Call Centres as part of or attached to the March 2014 Presidents’ Conference.  

3. Discussion on March 2013 Presidents’ Conference Workshop Items and Suggest Possible Recommendations

As only 2 of the 9 items at the Workshop were discussed during the workshop, the Committee reviewed the agenda items and made suggestions on what could be done, if anything, on each item.

1. Call Centre Contacts

The Call Centre Contact List is maintained and updated on a regular basis and has been sent out to all Locals and Executive Council. Brother Hume will speak with Brother Esslinger about whether the “Forms Call Centre” still exists and whether it should remain on the list.

2. Stressful Work Environment

Locals should continue to challenge the employer to find ways to lessen the stress and work towards a better work environment. This issue needs to be a standing item on all Call Centre Local UMC Agendas.

3. Call Centre Staffing/Rehire

  1. The issue deals with knowledge testing/work simulations in order to be placed on the rehire lists. The two issues are:
    1. the need for this testing in the first place; and

    2. when this testing takes place, i.e. in one Local the testing takes place on the weekend and the members are not paid. These issues are being brought up with local and regional management and if no improvements are achieved they should move to the national level. 

 4. Changing Workloads – Switching from one Business Line to Another

After a short discussion the Committee decided that Sister Ferguson would send out an email to the Call Centre contacts and gather more data on this issue in order to prepare to meet with the Employer about the members’ concerns.

5. Adherence

Brother MacDonald will contact the Employer and get its “current” definition of Adherence and what the current Adherence percentage rate is. Once we get this information, it will be forwarded to the Locals for them to hold discussions with local management.

Brother MacDonald will also ask about accessibility rate, occupancy rate and the average speed of answer rate.

6. Performance Reviews/Expectations

The Committee was not aware of any issues related to this item.

7. National Quality and Accuracy Learning Program (NQALP)

Sister Ferguson and Brother Tailleur gave a brief update on NQALP-IS similar to what is in the November 2012 Committee minutes. The Committee has not heard any feedback since the national rollout in April. Brother MacDonald will follow up with management to ensure the National memo on the roll out of NQALP-IS was distributed to all call centre employees.

Following the workshop, Sister Ferguson sent out a questionnaire via email to all the Call Centre contacts to get updated information as to how NQALP is working in their respective offices. (6 of 9 contacts responded.)

The major conclusions from the questionnaire were:

  1. SP04s doing formal training and not receiving acting pay. Formal training is not part of the SP04 work description.  This has been brought to both the Employer’s and employees’ attention. While we know our members are willing to do this work just to get off the phone line for a period of time, it is up to the Locals and its members to work towards getting this issue resolved.

  2. The amount of time being done by Call Centre agents on training and learning activities is not being properly reflected in the work description. Sister Ferguson will provide Brother MacDonald with a list of those training and learning activities that are not reflected in the work description so he can bring this issue up with his contacts in CRA Classification and have it forwarded to the functional management.

8. Vacation/Leave Requests – Operational Requirements

Brother MacDonald did discuss this briefly at the Workshop. At the UTE National Office we continue to hear that members are being denied vacation leave or are being told vacation leave will not be granted during certain time periods due to “Operational Requirements”.

Articles 34.05 and 34.06 are reproduced below:

Scheduling of vacation leave with pay


  1. Employees are expected to take all their vacation leave during the vacation year in which it is earned; 

  2. Subject to the following subparagraphs, the Employer reserves the right to schedule an employee’s vacation leave but shall make every reasonable effort:

    1. to provide an employee’s vacation leave in an amount and at such time as the employee may request;

    2. not to recall an employee to duty after the employee has proceeded on vacation leave;

    3. not to cancel nor alter a period of vacation or furlough leave which has been previously approved in writing.

34.06 The Employer shall give an employee as much notice as is practicable and reasonable of approval, denial, alteration, or cancellation of a request for vacation or furlough leave. In the case of denial, alteration, or cancellation of such leave, the Employer shall give the written reason therefore, upon written request from the employee.

Nowhere in these articles will you find the words “Operational Requirements”, but you will find “shall make every reasonable effort”.  So what does that mean?  To most of us, we never know.  As we submit our vacation requests, they get granted and there is little effort on the Employer’s part to say yes to our request. But when it’s no, that’s when the work of the Employer should have been done. You need to ask for the reason for the NO in writing.  (Art. 34.06)

In its response the Employer needs to provide you with two things:

  1. the reason for the denial; and

  2. what the “every reasonable effort” was that was attempted to grant your leave.  Failure to provide you with a satisfactory explanation should, if you so choose, result in the filing of a grievance.

There is no definition of “every reasonable effort”.  Does it mean, letting members in the Call Centre have vacation during peak times and the Employer having to bring in terms from the rehire list?  Does it mean, letting a member have vacation when that forces the Employer to  replace him/her by putting someone in an acting or asking a higher level person to perform those duties for the duration of the vacation?  We simply cannot answer that. But what we do know, is that the only way to start getting a clear definition is for those members who are denied vacation requests to grieve.

This issue has been brought to the attention of all Locals and Locals need to continue discussing this issue with local management.

9. Training and Cross Training

Training issues around the amount of time allocated for e-learning and the move to more e-learning were discussed with management and the Employer’s feedback can be found in the November 2012 Committee minutes. 

    4. Hours of Operation – 9am to 5pm

    The Committee has been made aware on different occasions that Call Centre hours of operation will be moving to 9:00am – 5:00pm. Brother MacDonald will contact the Employer to get the specifics on this issue.

    5. Verbal Aggression Directed Towards our Agents

    Within many governmental operations (provincial and municipal) there are automated messages that inform the caller that any verbal abuse towards their employees or the use of offensive language will not be tolerated. The Committee feels that the union should ask the Agency to install a similar type of message on our phone lines. Brother Hume will speak with Brother Gaetz (Chair of Health and Safety) to see who best should bring this issue forward to the Employer.

    6. “Leader Boards”

    The Committee discussed the issue of persons’ names being placed on “Leader Boards” in the workplace and being recognized, i.e. “Jane Doe had a Perfect Call”. The Committee’s concerns were that all NQALP calls are confidential.  So how did the Team Leader obtain the information that someone had a “perfect” call? If the recognition was the result of a taxpayer calling into the office saying someone did an outstanding job that might be o.k.  What about the impact this may have on the performance review process?  Lastly, what about the negative morale concerns about persons whose names never get on the board?

    7. Future of the Committee

    The Committee was established as an Ad Hoc committee, thus the Committee needs to consider and discuss if and when there will be an end date to the Committee.  At this time the Committee sees a number of issues that still require discussion with the Employer at the national level. There is also a continued need to provide information to Local Call Centre activists to help them solve problems and raise issues in their local work sites.

    The meeting adjourned at 3:00 p.m.