AFS National Union Management Consultation Update

On April 11, 2019, our AFS Executive met with CRA’s senior management team for our semi-annual National Union Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meeting.

As the minutes for these meetings take months to finalize and post, we decided to provide an update for our AFS members.

During our opening remarks, we discussed the current status of our bargaining (see AFS Group – Bargaining Update #7) and stated our commitment to do everything on our side to reach a fair collective agreement in a reasonable timeframe.

Phil Choo, our BC/Yukon Regional Rep, was thanked by both sides for his years of service and leadership for BC; for his work on CRA’s National Health and Safety Policy Committee; and for his work as our national lead on resolving Phoenix pay concerns for our colleagues.

Virtual Work Arrangements

We shared our concerns that CRA’s Guide on Virtual Work Arrangements places unnecessary restrictions on employee usage when employees are demanding more flexible work.  We believe that CRA must treat its employees with respect and consider their individual circumstances before determining if they are allowed to telework.  Very few employees have access to telework although it is mutually beneficial.  We are asking that management not put in road blocks.

Pay Related Matters

We are concerned by CRA’s continued reliance on Phoenix, a failed pay system, when better alternatives are available.  While the percentage of CRA employees with unresolved pay issues has reduced, there remain thousands of cases and tickets are not being issued for known problems such as the bilingual bonus.

We again propose that CRA expand the use of CAS to pay employees. This is a proven system and could be implemented with the assistance of our existing CS professionals within a reasonable time frame.

Union Management Approach

In spite of our repeated requests, promised meetings have not been held or rescheduled.  However, the parties remain committed to resolving issues at the lowest possible level. 

Federal Budget 2019

CRA provided an update on new investments in the Agency committed to in the 2019 federal budget. While we believe that greater investments in audit are needed, we were pleased to see an additional $77 million in funding for the Agency.

Annual Resource Alignment Process

CRA initiated an annual resource alignment process in 2017 and passed on this process in 2018 as they were required to do a comprehensive review.  CRA will be holding another annual resource alignment process in 2019 and committed to minimizing employee impacts.

Discrimination and Harassment

While there has been a small improvement in employee survey statistics, we are not aware of a single harassment complaint being upheld in years. This shows that CRA’s harassment complaint system is broken.

We are also concerned that the employer is not sharing vital aggregate statistics under the excuse that the Privacy Act prevents it being shared. This information does not reveal any personally identifiable information and is necessary for us to represent our members.  We agreed to meet soon to discuss this concern further.

Employee Assistance Program

Following numerous union requests, CRA has now provided external access to EAP contact information. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to navigate to these contact numbers on CRA’s external website.  To assist employees or their families in crisis, we request that the EAP telephone numbers be directly accessible from the front page of the CRA website.

Service by Design

CRA provided a comprehensive update on Service by Design.

Public Service Employee Survey

The 2018 employee survey was contracted out for the first time.  All data below the national level was corrupted preventing us from identifying key problem areas to focus on.  We are very disappointed that an outside contractor was used in place of Statistics Canada and that the results cannot be used effectively.  Similar to Phoenix, this is further evidence that contracting out does not work for the public service.

External Staffing

The number of external staffing processes increased from 27 in fiscal 2016 to 66 in fiscal 2017 and 89 in fiscal 2018. We are concerned about increased usage of external hiring for higher level positions which circumvents CRA’s requirement to provide recourse under the CRA Act.

We find the current level of external staffing to be excessive, abusive to the recourse intended to be included in staffing, and detrimental to both the Agency and its employees.

We are asking that CRA conduct a meaningful analysis of its feeder groups prior to undertaking any external staffing actions.

Non-advertised Staffing

During just the first 9 months of fiscal 2019, CRA made 4,494 non-advertised appointments. This type of staffing should be only done in rare and exceptional circumstances. We find this to be a blatant abuse of CRA’s staffing system established under the CRA Act. We want to know where is the oversight? Where is the accountability?

The AFS Group asks that the Agency recommit to the staffing principles of fairness and transparency and cease this out of control practice of non-advertised staffing.

AU Education Standard

CRA noted that an updated AU Education Standard will soon be shared.  The impacts of this change are expected to be small and will formalize existing exceptions for certain headquarters positions.

AFS Classification Matters

We presented a joint report on the progress of our classification consultation working group.  Both sides have identified issues with how the standards measure (or fail to measure) different aspects of work.  Significant issues were found and will be presented in the group’s final report.  The working group has completed work on 3 standards, and will complete work on the AU classification standard later this month. The working group continues to actively work together in a positive and open environment. The working group intends to present a full report of our findings at our October NUMCC meeting.

Next Meeting

Our next AFS NUMCC meeting will be held on October 24, 2019.