BETWEEN THE CANADA REVENUE AGENCY AND THE UNION OF TAXATION EMPLOYEES
Rick Leigh Doug Gaetz
Ted Gallivan Pierre Mulvihill
Heather Dewar Denis Lalancette
Brenda Watkins Brian Oldford
Joanne Heidgerken Gary Esslinger
Mr. Doug Gaetz, Regional Vice-President, Atlantic Region, and Union Co-Chair, welcomed everyone to the meeting. He asked that the minutes reflect that written updates would no longer be part of the agenda given that discussions would be more reflective of the original Tech Change Committee mandate. UTE was looking forward to a productive meeting.
Mr. Rick Leigh, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assessment and Benefit Services Branch, and Management Co-Chair, also welcomed the participants. He was pleased to note the good work of the Committee, as well as the solid working relationship that had been built over the years. On that note, Management agreed with the Union’s request to remove the written updates.
TACTICAL ACCOUNTING TEAM PILOT
Management stated that the Tactical Accounting Team (TAT) Pilot was established in order to better serve large, complex businesses that had a significant number of Business Numbers (e.g. 500-600 BNs).
The pilot was launched early in 2012 and would run for one year with a goal of permanently establishing TAT teams in 2013-2014. It was anticipated that there would be a need for 10-15 FTEs at the SP-05 level for the pilot. Should it be determined that there was a need to review the work descriptions given the complexity of the work, Management would ensure that UTE was consulted.
Management also noted that the introduction of the TATs would create a subtle effect within Headquarters (HQ). In the past, HQ employees spent 10-20% of their time working complex cases; with the introduction of the TATs they would be spending 100% of their time supporting the field. In addition, there would be no human resources impacts as a result of the changes.
MY ACCOUNT FOR INDIVIDUALS – TAX AND BENEFITS
Management stated that the My Account team was collaborating with other electronic initiatives such as e-Delivery and e-Documents in order to support the implementation and development of those efforts. As well, the team was working to update the view of My Accounts so that it would meet the accessibility requirements set by Treasury Board as a result of the Jodhan case.
In February 2012, several changes were introduced in the Benefits sub-application, all of which impacted client use as opposed to Agency employees. Some of the changes included Change My Marital Status functionality, the implementation of Common Look and Feel guidelines to the Child and Family Benefits Online sub-application and the Benefits online application. Additional changes were planned for May 2012, including access to the Ontario Trillium Benefit and the New Brunswick school supplement. As well, the Child and Family Benefit Online sub-application would add functionality which would advise clients why they were ineligible for GST/HST credits. None of the changes were expected to have an impact on FTEs.
The Union asked for additional details on the progress of updating the online tools to meet the access requirements for persons with disabilities. Furthermore, they expressed concern with the number of self-serve actions available online and the possible human resources impacts to employees in the Tax Centres.
Management explained that further details would be provided during the discussion regarding Secure Online Services later on in the agenda. With respect to the second question, Management stated that the development planned for My Account for Individuals for the next 6 – 12 months was minimal. There was no information available to correlate an increase of online data with a reduction in telephone calls; in fact, many of the enquiries became more complex. In addition Management indicated that the Tax Centres relied heavily on term employees; therefore, any impacts could be managed by modifying the number / length of term contracts.
The Union stated that “impact’ had traditionally referred to the total number of employees, determinate and indeterminate, impacted by a given change rather than the FTEs which could translate to a greater number of people.
Management acknowledged the Union’s perspective and would look to clarify the terminology when referring to human resources impacts.
MY BUSINESS ACCOUNT
Management stated that My Business Account was a portal that allowed businesses to access a number of services. The Agency had observed a significant increase in the number of businesses who had accessed the portal at least once. Recent updates to the portal included: My Enquiries, a service which allowed a taxpayer to submit questions about assessments and receive a written response; Change of Address functionality; Message Centre, an electronic substitute for paper mail-outs; and File a Rebate, which enabled businesses to file a GST rebate electronically. The scope of services within My Business Account was expanding as the CRA promoted the services to taxpayers.
Additional manual review had also been built into the process to ensure that the information provided was complete and accurate. Therefore, while the need for data capture work would decrease, review work would increase.
The Union noted that Management had previously committed to looking into whether the take-up rates were expected to increase and whether the Agency had considered the potential human resources impacts resulting from the initiative.
Management would endeavour to provide more concrete details at a later date regarding the HR impacts but stated that similar to My Account for Individuals, increased use of self-serve tools often reduced the need for employees in one area but created a need in others. For that reason, the full human resources impacts were difficult to assess. With regard to take up rates, Management stated that it would like to see all initial returns submitted electronically within the next three years.
The Union asked Management to consider providing training that would allow SP-01s and SP-02s to be successful with the transition from process workers to knowledge workers.
TRUST EXAMINATION SOFTWARE SYSTEM
As discussed at the previous Technological Change Sub-Committee meeting, the Trust Examination Software System (TESS) was no longer supported by the Information Technology Branch (ITB); the new model would be maintained by ITB and would eventually have the advantage of being able to link with other systems. The new system had been renamed Trust Accounts Compliance Tool (TACT) in order to avoid confusion.
Management was in the final stages of testing TACT in HQ. Once the tool was stabilized, the next step would be to pilot the system. The sites selected for the pilot included Halifax, Quebec, Toronto North, Winnipeg, and Burnaby Fraser. Management expected to rollout TACT by April 1, 2013. The training for employees was expected to be one to two days in duration.
The Union asked if employees selected for the pilot would be using the system to work on files. UTE also mentioned rumours in the field regarding delays.
Management confirmed that pilot participants would use the new system to work their files. While Management acknowledged the delays, good progress had been made and the pilot’s start date was targeted for September 2012. More time had been spent testing in HQ than originally envisioned to ensure that the product was stabilized prior to the pilot.
Management informed the Union that additional details would be provided once the pilot was rolled out.
AUTOMATED BENEFITS APPLICATION
Management stated that Automated Benefits Application would allow new mothers to apply for a child benefit through their provincial vital statistics office when they completed the birth registration form. One form could be used for several functions such as applying for the Child Tax Benefit. The new functionality would eventually be allocated to all of the provinces starting with Alberta in the next few weeks, along with Newfoundland and New Brunswick in 2013. New functionality had also been added to update mid-year address changes.
The original HR impact analysis (HRIA) conducted in 2009 had indicated that no permanent employees would be impacted. With the addition of the new functionality, Management expected that there would be a decrease to the overall FTE count because fewer applications were being flagged for review, resulting in less work for the employees. The HRIA would be updated to reflect those changes.
The Union expressed concerns regarding possible impacts to employees and asked when they could expect to be provided with the updated numbers.
Management stated that it did not have a timeframe for updating the information; however, UTE would be provided with revised data. They went on to mention that the cumulative effects on the FTE count since 2009 was 54. This included the birth rate changes, address change functionality, as well as the addition of provinces. Although there would be an increase they did not expect it to be significant.
The Union stated that even the smallest impact was considered important.
TAXFILER REPRESENTATIVE INFORMATION SYSTEM MODERNIZATION
Management stated that an electronic submission had been introduced for the T1013s. At the same time, a monitoring program was implemented to review the electronic submissions that were received. As a result, FTEs that had previously processed the T1013 submissions would now work in the monitoring program. Management added that although the type of work had changed, the number of FTEs remained static.
The Union asked whether the employees who had been doing processing work would also be performing the monitoring duties or whether different employees would be needed, in other words, were the employees sitting on the same work descriptions.
Management explained that the processing had typically been done during peak periods while the monitoring work would be conducted from May to October. Typically, employees moved from one type of workload to the next, as needed. Management was responsible to manage the workflow but added that there was no reason why the same employees could not do the duties as they moved through the various workloads. They would look into UTE’s question regarding the work description and get back to the Union.
SECURE ONLINE SERVICES
Management stated that as a result of the Transactional Services Audit in 2008, the Assessment and Benefits Services Branch (ABSB) had been tasked with coordinating, developing, and leading a strategy for CRA’s online services.
Management provided the Union with a presentation on Secure Online Services (SOLS) which highlighted the background, approach, the strategy, principles, and next steps including e-Documents, e-Delivery, and e-Payments.
Management noted that the SOLS committee formed the governance structure. It was led by ABSB and included all operational branches as well as the Information Technology Branch, and the Public Affairs Branch.
Human resources impacts resulting from the new services offerings were expected to be managed primarily through attrition; however, the situation would continue to be monitored.
Management proposed removing the My Account updates from the agenda given that development now focused on the new SOLS solutions. Many various online services could be covered through discussions regarding SOLS. My Business Account updates would continue as normal.
The Union would consider Management’s request and get back to them with a response. The Union asked that Management keep the committee apprised of the HR impacts once more information became available. Management agreed.
The Union asked if using different devices such as a Blackberry or iPads would require different treatment with regard to the services.
Management stated that the focus had been on access of the services via computer. No analysis had been done with regard to other types of devices.
T1 Systems Redesign
Management stated that since the last update, the project name had been officially changed to T1 Systems Redesign in order to ensure consistency with the Treasury Board submission. T1 Systems Redesign was a part of the Business Transformation Directorate, Assessment and Benefit Services Branch.
The T1 Systems Redesign was aligned with Secure Online Services activities and would build on the SOLS workload. It was currently in the project initiation stage; therefore, it was premature to discuss the HR impacts. Management would keep UTE apprised once more information was available.
Management provided UTE with a presentation and discussed key points, such as the background, purpose of the project, assumptions, key drivers, scope, stakeholder consultations, as well as the vision.
The Union asked who was consulted during the visits to the TCs and how the message regarding the sessions had been disseminated.
Management replied that the Union was aware and involved. Furthermore, UTE representatives were invited to attend the presentations but they could not confirm specific attendance. The message was sent to directors and cascaded to the teams.
The Union would follow-up with their local representatives to determine who participated in these sessions; however, they suggested that a greater emphasis be place on recording who attended the session. They went on to clarify that the key issue was whether the invitation was extended to the Union, rather than whether UTE participated.
Management appreciated the Union’s suggestion and would endeavour to verify if Union representatives attended either the HQ sessions or the advance consultation sessions.
The Union asked if Management would advise if any further meetings were scheduled to take place in Ottawa as they would like to inform their union stewards and representatives. They also stated that Management had committed to looking into whether the feedback reports could be shared with the Union.
Management acknowledged the Union’s suggestion and stated that there were no further consultation sessions planned at the time; however, they expected that there would be ongoing consultations throughout the life of the project once it received approval from the Treasury Board President. In addition, a summary of the comments received had been recorded and it was anticipated that over the next few months the report would be finalized and shared with UTE, as well as the TC directors.
The Union asked when the project plan was due to be presented to the Treasury Board President.
Management stated that the report had to be accepted by the President before the end of the fiscal year. Their goal was to present the document in October.
The Union asked Management to provide more information regarding the possibility of mandatory electronic filing.
Management stated that mandatory electronic filing could be a requirement in the future, possibly in response to legislative changes, but that it was an unknown at this point in time.
The Union asked how Management would propose dealing with outstanding commitments from the Tech Change meetings.
Labour Relations stated that in most cases, prior commitments would be addressed via email in advance of the next scheduled meeting. However, should there be any remaining commitments not yet taken care in advance of the next meeting, Management would provide a status at that time.
Both Management and the Union thanked everyone for their attendance and participation.
Original signed by Rick Leigh
Original signed by
Assessment and Benefit Services Branch
Canada Revenue Agency
Union of Taxation Employees
Date: July 24, 2012
Date: July 18, 2012