The Commissioner underlined the importance of the National Union-Management Consultation Committee (NUMCC) meetings as well as the informal consultation meetings that take place throughout the year. He commented on the recent Auditor General Report regarding the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)’s compliance efforts. He said the CRA will adopt a number of actions as a result. He also said that the CRA has undertaken a review to identify any improvements that can be made, taking a more integrated approach to compliance. Strengthening prevention will drive toward long-term compliance. He acknowledged the significant victory for the CRA in Samaroo v Canada Revenue Agency, 2019 BCCA 113, by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
The Deputy Commissioner was pleased to attend her first NUMCC meeting with the Audit, Financial and Scientific (AFS) Group. She looks forward to collaborating with the union, and in particular, on the well-being of employees. She was pleased with the results of the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) demonstrating we are on the right track. It is by partnering with the union that we will improve the workplace for our employees, resulting in better service to Canadians. She is proud that the CRA was recognized as a Top 100 Employers in Canada. She also congratulated the Well-being Champion on the many initiatives put in place including the creation of the Well-being Network. This has assisted with increasing employee awareness of services available, including the formal and informal mechanisms available to them in conflict resolution.
The President, AFS Group, was pleased to meet and discuss issues important to members of the AFS Group and to management. Since the last NUMCC meeting, numerous consultations have taken place on a variety of topics. He commented on the bargaining sessions that have taken place where concerns from both the union and management have been discussed and progress was made. He expressed that priorities must be resolved soon to achieve a collective agreement in a timely manner. The AFS Group members have identified flexible work arrangements as their top non-pay priority. He expressed that the employer needed to commit to some concrete improvements to the collective agreement at the next bargaining session as this would assist the parties to move forward. He also acknowledged the victory in the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and was pleased to see the CRA supporting its auditors by appealing the British Columbia Supreme Court decision.
- Virtual Work Arrangements
The President, AFS Group, said that Virtual Work Arrangements (VWA) is an area of concern for the union. He said that the Guide on Virtual Work Arrangements (the Guide) placed unnecessary restrictions on employees when they are demanding more flexible work arrangements. He looked forward to consulting with management on the integrated approach to the workplace of the future. He asked for further clarification about the desk reservation system in the Prairie Region.
The Ontario Region AFS Representative said that it made no sense to arbitrarily deny employees’ access to telework or to work remotely from other CRA offices, simply because they do not meet performance expectations. There is no established correlation between telework and the employee’s ability to meet performance expectations. It is entirely possible that many employees could be more productive if allowed to telework rather than to report to an office every day. The union sees this measure as entirely punitive and as disguised discipline by targeting employees who have challenges in meeting performance expectations while working in an office setting. He noted that managers have discretion to cancel telework arrangements if they feel productivity is negatively impacted. This gives management the discretion it needs without setting a precondition of having to meet performance expectations. The union understands that telework does not work for everyone. It strongly urges the CRA to reconsider its position. When considering a telework request, it asks that the CRA treat employees with respect and consider their individual circumstances before making a decision. He said that very few employees have access to telework. He also said that telework was mutually beneficial and asked that management not put roadblocks in the way of telework.
The Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch, (AC, HRB), said that initiatives such as VWA can contribute to CRA’s ability to retain qualified employees, increase an employee’s productivity and performance, and remove barriers negatively impacting employee well-being. Organizational and people management factors, such as an increase in national workloads, a shrinking number of available workstations, and more employees seeking a flexible workplace, have presented us with an opportunity to promote VWA. He said that there are a number of resources and tools available to support VWA. The contents of the comprehensive Guide and other related tools, such as KnowHow solutions, web-based applications and training are available to assist managers in their decision-making and their managing of these types of arrangements. Some regions have launched initiatives to promote various types of VWA. For example, the Ontario Region is expanding the use of situational telework and implementing a touch-down program where employees can go to different offices and book a space for the day, and the Prairie Region provides routine telework opportunities and is expanding the use of desk reservations. Managers across the CRA have the discretion to approve virtual work requests where operationally feasible and where conditions of the Guide have been met. The CRA will continue to ensure to meet its duty to accommodate when applying these conditions. Our statistics show that there are a number of employees who have been actively participating in VWA. Based on a recent presentation to senior management, more work needs to be done. For instance, we need to ensure that we have sufficient funding in terms of technology and equipment, assess the results of regional pilots, ensure that managers have sufficient tools to support employees, and manage employees’ and managers’ expectations. An Enablers Working Group is looking at developing an integrated approach to the workplace of the future, including the use of VWA. During the development of the approach, the group will be consulting widely with stakeholders, including the unions. Their findings will be presented to senior management.
The Assistant Commissioner, Prairie Region, (AC, PR), said that the desk reservation system is used in situations where there are more employees than desk space available. It is used in the Call Centres and the Tax Centre. It will be piloted with other business lines to determine if it could be implemented on a routine basis.
- Pay-Related Matters
The President, AFS Group, said the union is concerned with CRA’s continued reliance on Phoenix, a failed pay system, when better alternatives are available. He was pleased to hear the good news about the bilingual bonus. He is looking forward to discussing the issues about transfer-in and transfer-out transactions with management. He is disappointed to hear about the efforts required to stabilize the current pay system but is encouraged that the CRA is involved in the efforts moving forward. He said that the work of CRA’s Compensation Agents was commendable and appreciated that the retroactivity payments were substantially made on time. This is an important factor as we move forward in collective bargaining. He remarked that the union would never agree to no retroactivity in collective bargaining.
The B.C./Yukon Region AFS Representative noted that the percentage of CRA employees with unresolved pay issues over 30 days has reduced from 17.7%, in September, to 12.4% in late March 2019. This still represents thousands of unresolved pay issues and the union is aware that tickets are not being issued for known problems such as the bilingual bonus. This is a major concern for the union since 75% of positions in the Quebec Region are bilingual. He said that another six months have passed without any resolution to the longstanding problems of the bilingual bonus, the incorrect deductions of union dues, and the repayment of salary overpayments. The union believes that an aged inventory of pay cases would provide a truer picture of ongoing problems with Phoenix. The union proposes that the CRA expand the use of the Corporate Administrative Systems (CAS) to pay employees. He said that CAS is a proven system and could be implemented with the assistance of CS professionals within a reasonable timeframe.
The AC, HRB, said that Phoenix remains the only Government of Canada pay system for the public service. The CRA is not actively looking to use CAS to pay its employees. We are committed to collaborating with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) to stabilize Phoenix and contribute to NextGen solutions. The trends show that CRA’s inventory of open cases over 30 days old has been steadily decreasing over the past year, except for a short time when the number of cases increased due to the implementation of the revisions to the collective agreements. He said that the latest dashboard indicated that less than 12% of employees had a case over 30 days old. This compares to 66.9% of employees in organizations serviced by the Public Service Pay Centre. As part of the revision process following the signing of the collective agreement, Industrial Alliance is working on CRA’s adjustments for long-term disability benefits for eligible employees based on the revised rates of pay. They have confirmed they are nearing completion. An update was provided to CRA employees in the News about Compensation Information bulletin, published March 14, 2019, on InfoZone. He said that the CRA continues to work in close collaboration with PSPC and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. The CRA is actively participating in many HR-to-Pay working groups to support Phoenix stabilization and to ensure that employees are paid accurately and on time. To confirm that employees have received what they are entitled to, the CRA reviews and compares an expenditure file from Phoenix with the information in CAS. If discrepancies are found, Compensation takes corrective action before pay day. The CRA is working with PSPC on four key transformational initiatives which will support stabilization, reduce the level of effort for compensation agents, and increase the accuracy of pay. We continue to improve and automate pay transactions to help facilitate the workload and process pay transactions faster. The CRA continues to communicate regularly with employees and develop tools to support employees impacted by Phoenix. The CRA updates any known Phoenix issues on our Phoenix resources and updates webpage on InfoZone for employees to be aware of any progress. We also communicate updates in our monthly Compensation Information bulletin. In February 2019, the CRA sent a follow-up survey to a random sample of employees on the Phoenix tools and support they receive. Responses will be reviewed to determine what more we can do to support employees. In Budget 2018, the government announced its intention to find options for an alternative, long-term, and sustainable next generation pay solution while continuing their efforts to stabilize Phoenix. This remains a priority for the government. User expo sessions were held in the National Capital Region and in the regions from January 14, 2019, to February 11, 2019. Employees were informed of these sessions and their locations, and were encouraged to attend and provide feedback. The CRA participated in the evaluation of the proposed solutions. All project materials and milestones are published on the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada (TBS)’s webpage, where employees can provide feedback and obtain updates on progress. He acknowledged the excellent work of Compensation Agents amidst a very difficult situation. He said we are making remarkable progress with respect to the bilingual bonus issue, and it is believed that a CRA solution has been identified that will allow us to advance on this issue. He anticipates reporting back to the unions shortly on this. We continue to push on other known issues. He also said we are working with PSPC to determine the best mechanisms for the transfer-in and transfer-out transactions.
The Commissioner said that a lot of great work was being accomplished. The CRA is contributing and looking for ways to continue to improve in a number of areas, including paying employees appropriately, communicating with them effectively, and collaborating with stakeholders on the NextGen solution. We are also assisting with tax issues that arise as a result of overpayments and underpayments.
- Union-Management Approach (UMA)
The AC, HRB, said that UMA 103 launched on October 30, 2018. Last fall, the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) announced that two of the three UMA 102 online courses would be discontinued in February 2019 due to a change in the service provider. The replacement courses were identified following a consultation process with both unions. He stated that Communications Basics was replaced with The Arts and Science of Communication and Trust Building through Effective Communication. In addition, Conflict Management was replaced with The Many Approaches to Facing Conflict and Facing and Resolving Conflict in the Workplace. The implementation of these courses was made seamlessly. There was no requirement for employees to complete the new version of UMA 102 if they had already completed the previous version. He said that the National UMA Committee has been overseeing the implementation of UMA across the CRA. In the fall 2019, the committee will be requesting that branches and regions report on the status of their UMA training activities. At that time, areas for improvement may be identified.
The Atlantic Region AFS Representative said that the union was concerned that no recent in-person meetings with the National UMA Committee were held. He acknowledged that touch-point meetings have attempted to be scheduled, to no avail. The union had previously shared its concern with the transition of UMA from the National Information Conflict Resolution Program Office to Union-Management Relations. The union requests that a National UMA Committee meeting be scheduled as soon as possible.
The Commissioner underlined the importance of UMA and was open to ideas on how to ensure it continues to permeate across the CRA. He is pleased with the union-management relationship with the AFS Group.
- Federal Budget 2019
The President, AFS Group, noted that while we believe greater investments in audit are needed, he was pleased to see the announcement of an additional $77 million dollar investment in real estate audit.
The Commissioner said that the Federal Budget 2019 was different from last year’s budget. It encapsulated the Comprehensive Review that was completed in 2018, with reallocations announced in this budget. The funding the CRA received was in line with its priorities.
The Director General, Income Tax Rulings Directorate, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch (LPRAB), provided selected highlights from this year’s budget. There were income tax measures affecting individuals, businesses, supporting journalism, and there were also commodity tax measures.
The Assistant Commissioner, Finance and Administration Branch, (AC, FAB), said that from a finance perspective, Federal Budget 2019 announced funding to improve tax compliance and improve services. She stated that in Budget 2018, the Government of Canada announced that it would undertake a comprehensive review of the CRA service model. We undertook an analysis of expenditures to ensure that cumulative resources in compliance, collections, and client-services activities were assigned in the most efficient manner in light of the broader Government of Canada Service Strategy. The Federal Budget 2019 announcement also relates to the reallocation and reinvestment of existing CRA funds. Funding for some initiatives will start in the first year, and a plan to outline program redesign will detail next steps over a five-year period. The CRA recognizes that its service transformation agenda involves significant change, and that the long-term objectives of the Comprehensive Review will be realized over a five-year period. The Comprehensive Review will help strengthen Canadians’ trust in their tax system by highlighting CRA’s commitment and activities related to delivering excellent service and promoting the integrity of its compliance activities.
- Annual Resource Alignment Process (ARAP)
The AC, FAB, said that the CRA launched its first ARAP in 2017. The goal was to ensure that budget allocations aligned with both Government of Canada and CRA priorities. We moved forward with the implementation of certain reallocation and reinvestment proposals, starting in fiscal year 2018–2019. As a result of this exercise, there were no job losses; although a minimal number of employees were asked to shift their workload while remaining in their current position and location. It is a priority of the CRA, with exercises of this nature, to minimize the impact on employees. While ARAP was intended to be an annual exercise, it was suspended in 2018 due to the Comprehensive Review. The CRA is now preparing to launch its second ARAP in the next couple of months.
The Commissioner said that the CRA has demonstrated to the Government of Canada its ability to manage its funding responsibly through the past ARAP exercise, by reallocating resources and funds to reflect its priorities. He said that this may have led to smaller changes through the Comprehensive Review. This was good for the CRA and its employees. The current ARAP exercise may lead to some adjustments.
- Discrimination and Harassment
The President, AFS Group, said the union was still concerned that the CRA was not addressing discrimination and harassment complaints in a meaningful way. He acknowledged an improvement in PSES results. It has been years since a single complaint has been upheld, and given the number of cases, this did not make any sense. This demonstrated that the complaint resolution process is broken. He said the union was disappointed that there was no follow-up to the productive discussion held during the plenary portion of the last NUMCC meeting. The union acknowledged it could have followed up with management. The union is interested in pursuing productive discussions with management on improving prevention and resolution of discrimination and harassment cases. He also said that the union is concerned that its information requests for regional statistics and those made under the Canada Labour Code are being denied. He appreciated management’s offer to have a meeting about its information requests in accordance with UMA. He said it was his understanding that the Discrimination and Harassment Centre of Expertise (DHCE) was playing the role of ombudsman. He does not think this is how employees perceive the role of the DHCE. It was his observation that the DHCE may not be seen as neutral by employees, since they continue to experience barriers to have their cases resolved. He acknowledged that the CRA has taken many steps to improve the complaint resolution process.
The Negotiator, Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), said the union disagrees with CRA’s position that their information requests are being denied as a result of the application of the Privacy Act. The union is seeking regional and national statistics as it relates to discrimination and harassment, and health and safety. This information is essential for the union to represent its members. It is also used to determine whether the CRA is meeting its obligations under the Canada Labour Code and under its policy. There is nothing preventing the CRA to provide the number of complaints filed and their resolution. There is no personal information included in the information being requested. The number of cases in a region does not identify who has filed or responded to a complaint. The union referred management to Gordon v Canada, 2008 FC 258, a Federal Court decision, which articulated a widely accepted test. The union would prefer to resolve this using UMA. It is prepared to file an Access to Information and Privacy request.
The AC, HRB, said the work is continuing in collaboration with the Public Affairs Branch on the development of a strategic communication plan to foster increased dialogue on workplace well-being and on diversity and inclusion. On March 13, 2019, an email from the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner requested the support of Assistant Commissioners in continuing to foster a culture of trust, respect and inclusion and continue the dialogue on workplace well-being and on diversity and inclusion. The email was also intended to ensure that employees understand their responsibilities and are reminded of the services and resources available to them should they be faced with a discrimination or harassment situation in the workplace. In December 2018, following consultations with the unions, both new and enhanced discrimination and harassment supporting tools were approved. Process maps have been updated to clarify roles and responsibilities in the resolution process. Additional work is pending the outcome of regulations related to the changes to the Canada Labour Code. Consultation will take place once these are published and changes are integrated into the process maps. The case management system for monitoring and reporting on discrimination and harassment complaints and grievances has been implemented. In addition, restoration of the workplace is also very important and better support will be provided to employees and management, even in circumstances where allegations are not accepted. On February 19, 2019, both unions were provided with an update on the work being done to review CRA’s approach to preventing discrimination and harassment, and responding to allegations, while supporting the parties involved. Improvements under the five themes outlined in the Clerk’s report on Safe Workspaces were also identified. Both unions also received CRA’s draft response to the Clerk’s report on Safe Workspaces. He understood a positive meeting took place between the AFS Group and the Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate to continue the dialogue and discuss CRA’s proposed 2019–2020 action plan. He took the opportunity to thank the union for the additional feedback provided on the draft action plan initiatives. All of the feedback received during the consultation process is currently being reviewed. The unions will continue to receive updates on action plan initiatives. He also addressed the union’s concern with respect to sharing of information. He believed in resolving this issue in the spirit of UMA. He, along with the Chief Privacy Officer, committed to meeting with the union to further clarify how the CRA handles privacy matters. He said that the CRA has a responsibility to review aggregate and residual data being provided to any third party, including the union. If the data can be used to identify individuals, it has a responsibility to mask that data. He was clear that this practice was not designed and intended to withhold information from the union.
The AC, PR, said he has been working with the DHCE on a prevention approach aimed at creating ongoing dialogue about discrimination and harassment. He provided an update on the progress of this initiative with respect to three components. The first component is leadership engagement at all levels. It was launched in September 2018, and cascaded from the regional management committee to all team leaders. The second component is the delivery of awareness sessions to all employees and co-facilitated by management and union representatives. Union and management facilitators were trained in December 2018 and deployment began in January 2019 with two pilot sites (Winnipeg and Edmonton). Other regional sites were planned between April and September 2019. Both of these components made use of a series of real-life scenarios. The third component is measuring the activities and outcomes to validate if the intent of the sessions was achieved. Feedback and results will be used to prepare products that could be made available nationally to increase awareness and prevention of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The Commissioner said that the CRA is committed to resolving all cases of discrimination and harassment that are raised, and preventing them from occurring in the workplace. He acknowledged that we need to work together to better understand why harassment complaints are not founded, and what other factors could be underlined in those cases.
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The President, AFS Group, said that the union was happy to see that the CRA has provided external access to EAP contact information. He was disappointed with the challenges experienced in trying to locate the information on the external website. The union is concerned that employees in crisis will not find the information and this could increase their frustration. The union would have appreciated being consulted or briefed prior to the information being published. The union asked management to consider its request to have the EAP contact information posted on the main CRA page of the Canada.ca website. It does not believe that taxpayers would be offended if the number was published in this area. This is done by the Department of National Defence, so it is possible to do this for our employees.
The NCR-IT Region AFS Representative said that the information was published before the unions were informed. When trying the search function on CRA’s main page of the Canada.ca website, other information also appears. The EAP phone number does not appear at the top of the list and is difficult to find. He did acknowledge some tweaking to the search algorithm may have taken place since the last National EAP Committee meeting.
The Negotiator, PIPSC, also said the information was difficult to find for employees in crisis.
The AC, HRB, thanked the Atlantic Region AFS Representative for raising this issue and the National EAP Committee for recommending the publication of the EAP telephone number on the Canada.ca site. It was posted on February 25, 2019, and may be found on the CRA Telephone Numbers page of the Canada.ca site. The information was added under the subheading CRA employee enquiries in the Individuals and families enquiries section. Other initiatives that have been launched include printable EAP contact cards, and a digital version that can be downloaded to one’s smart phone by scanning the quick response (QR) code. These initiatives, including a new awareness video about EAP, are available on KnowHow. He committed to reviewing the union’s request.
- Service by Design
The Assistant Commissioner, Strategy, Innovation and Integration Branch, said that as part of the development of the Service Policy Framework, work has been done to define the foundation pieces (vision, values, guiding principles and service identity) needed to reinforce the CRA’s new direction of being client-focused. She said that our vision statement has been renewed to make it more inspiring, tangible and client-centric, and to demonstrate how we want to be recognized for being trusted, helpful and fair by putting people – Canadians and our employees – first. A service identity has also been articulated to better define what service means for employees and describe the dimensions that work together to provide excellent services both internally and externally. Guiding principles have been formulated to set the path for how we, as an organization, should carry out our vision and help create a common culture in which everyone understands what’s important. Between February 15, and March 29, 2019, in-person engagement sessions were held with employees across the country to seek their perspective on our service transformation journey with a view to help the CRA better support them in providing more client-centric services. They were complemented by an online engagement tool, which allowed all employees an opportunity to provide feedback. The AFS Group members represented approximately 30% of employees who participated. Employees have also been sharing their thoughts on CRA’s service transformation through various outreach sessions. The input received from employees will be analyzed over the coming weeks and, where necessary, changes will be made to the various foundation pieces to ensure they truly resonate with employees. In keeping with our new client experience approach to designing and delivering integrated services that meet client needs, we will continue to conduct internal and external consultations, as well as build tools and capabilities that will help to determine how we should transform our services to meet the expectations of Canadians. Last January 2019, an external advisory panel on service was formed comprising experts from the public, private and non-for-profit sectors to seek advice on emerging trends and practices in the fields of service design and delivery. It is chaired by the Commissioner. The first meeting took place at the end of January 2019. It has already proven helpful. Public consultations will be launched late in April 2019 to consult individuals on service improvements. In the spring, we’ll also be holding a series of design jams or co-creation sessions with key stakeholders and users, with the first one happening in April, to promote co-creation of service improvements that respond directly to client needs, including generating solutions to address pain points. We are also conducting a study on why clients continue to come to CRA offices for service in order to better understand how Canadians interact with the CRA, even if those interactions don’t always occur through our formal service channels. We want to know more about the nature of these enquiries to identify areas for improvement.
- Public Service Employee Survey (PSES)
The Assistant Commissioner, Audit, Evaluation and Risk Branch, said he supported strong union-management relationships, and was encouraged by the union’s continued interest in the PSES. From August 20, to October 5, 2018, the PSES was conducted by Advanis, a Canadian research company, on behalf of TBS. The CRA-level results were released publicly on February 12, 2019. Results at our branch, region, and lower organizational levels were supposed to have been released on March 7, 2019. However, during the CRA validation process, we discovered that the results we received did not align with the organizational structure. There were more respondents than employees in most branches, and less respondents than expected in the regions. This issue is similar to what we’ve seen in past years, and have raised at our National Steering Committee (NSC) meetings, to which we are thankful for the Toronto Region AFS Representative’s continued participation. The solution proposed and conducted in past years by Statistics Canada included recoding the organizational units of respondents, a process that was done by Statistics Canada to ensure all confidentiality was protected. In the past, Statistics Canada had identified possible reasons for this happening. In short, it comes down to respondents identifying as working in a unit other than what they report to. This could be for any number of reasons, including that so many of our organizational units within our very complex structure have similar names and program lines. Unfortunately, due to data validity issues, CRA results at the organizational unit level will not be available for PSES 2018. While similar issues were encountered in previous surveys, Statistics Canada as the service provider was able to recode the data to ensure validity of organizational unit level results based on the provisions of the Statistics Act. The change in provider, a change in the wording of the privacy statement, and the lack of a Privacy Impact Assessment, made the recoding impossible. We are working closely with TBS to put new measures in place to ensure the CRA receives meaningful results at the organizational unit level for PSES 2019 and beyond. While the situation is unfortunate as we know survey results are best addressed at the local level, this problem in no way impacts the validity of the PSES 2018 data at the CRA level, which we are using to measure the impact of our HR strategies and inform the development of new strategies as required; and we look forward to receiving local level results of PSES 2019 in early 2020. Throughout the survey administration period, we held weekly meetings with the NSC, to which we are thankful for the union’s continued participation and engagement. Its support throughout the survey administration period was instrumental. The results from this year’s survey are generally in line with those of 2017, and indicate that the majority of CRA employees like their job and are satisfied with our organization. We are pleased with this continued success. That said, there is still work to do in the area of workplace well‑being. Due to the annual nature of the PSES, we will again follow our Results in Action approach, in an effort to continue integrating PSES results into our business decisions. In the coming weeks, we will further analyze the results, identify trends, and examine demographic data in an effort to better understand the findings. This approach allows us to work with the responsible areas within HRB and the network of Agency Champions, to use these findings to help address areas of concern. As your members’ representatives, should you have opportunities to discuss the results with them, we would welcome any feedback provided by the union.
The President, AFS Group, indicated that the union had previously voiced its concerns with the contracting out of the survey from Statistics Canada, and was not surprised with the outcome related to the lower organizational results. He hoped that this situation did not impact the validity of the survey results.
The Toronto AFS Representative looked forward to working with the new PSES Champion. He said it is important to understand the drivers behind the results. He is disappointed that this type of deeper analysis will not be possible for the PSES 2018. He underlined the importance of the terminology used in the survey and whether it is understood by users. He hoped that the additional questions put forward for PSES 2019 will result in more information related to the drivers underlying the results. This was an important initiative to all parties.
The NCR-IT Region AFS Representative added that the questions relate to one another and are tied to many issues such as classification and harassment and discrimination, and results from particular questions cannot be analyzed in isolation.
The Commissioner said that the PSES is a valuable tool to take the pulse because all of CRA’s initiatives related to service and the compliance approach will not succeed if employees are not feeling good about the workplace. He expressed disappointment at the lack of lower organizational results, as these provide valuable information on where pockets of issues are occurring. He said the CRA is committed to being back on track for PSES 2019.
- External and Non-Advertised Staffing
The President, AFS Group, is concerned over the increase use of external hiring, for higher level positions in particular. He said that in 2016, there were 27 external staffing processes, in 2017, there were 66, and in 2018, there were 89. The union feels that this circumvents the requirement to offer recourse under the CRA Act, as there is no recourse offered under external staffing processes. In addition to avoiding recourse and accountability, external staffing processes deny opportunities to internal employees to progress within the organization. This results in the CRA not making full use of its internal employees’ professional capabilities. He said there were some external staffing processes that required five years of external experience within the last five years. This made it impossible for internal employees to apply and was frustrating to them. The union understands CRA’s business need to replenish its workforce. However, it believes the use of external staffing is excessive, abusive to the recourse intended to be included in staffing, and detrimental to both the CRA and its employees. The union is asking management to conduct a meaningful analysis of its feeder groups prior to using external staffing processes, as was done in the past. The union also shared a one-page summary of non-advertised appointments. In the first nine months of fiscal year 2018–2019, the CRA made approximately 4,500 non-advertised appointments. This type of appointment should only be done in rare and exceptional circumstances. The union is shocked by these statistics, and views this as a blatant abuse of CRA’s Staffing Program, established by the CRA Act. Nearly half of acting appointments were non-advertised and 15% of external hires were done without an advertised process. The union is troubled by this apparent lack of oversight and accountability. The union is asking the CRA to recommit to the staffing principles of fairness and transparency and to cease the non-advertised staffing practice.
The AC, HRB, said that the use of external staffing has increased for all groups and levels at the CRA. He said that many CRA employees apply on external staffing processes per our Staffing Program. Most of the appointments resulting from external processes are made to internal employees. For example, at the last Job Expo in Toronto in 2016, only 10% of appointments were external hires and roughly 75% of the qualified candidates in the remaining pool are internal employees. CRA employees are being promoted and appointed through these. The need for external hiring is due to our demographics. Job Expos allow us to attract new talent while promoting many of our own employees. On the subject of non-advertised staffing, as we have discussed previously, this is one of several options available to managers to help them satisfy their business needs. Evidence shows the percentage has remained relatively stable over the last few years at approximately 30%. When examined more closely, these actions are mostly for acting, terms and lateral moves. Non-advertised promotions have actually decreased. The CRA continues to ensure that the Staffing Principles (Adaptability, Efficiency, Fairness, Productiveness, and Transparency) guide its staffing activities. He committed to reviewing the report provided by the union more carefully.
- AU Education Standard
The Director General, International and Large Business Directorate, International, Large Business and Investigations Branch, said that over time our business has significantly evolved. The current requirements for accounting credentials can make it difficult to attract AU employees from LPRAB and Appeals Branch (which already have more educational requirement flexibility), and to evolve our workforce to the standards used internationally and in the private sector.
The AC, HRB, said that the revised Minimum Education Standards of the Procedures for Staffing is proposed to be implemented on May 1, 2019. Advance notice will be provided to the unions in April 2019. A message will also be sent to the Agency Management Committee before the implementation date. An InfoZone News article will be issued to inform all employees.
- AFS Classification Matters
The President, AFS Group, said that the last consultation meeting was held on January 25, 2019, when the working group discussed the MG standard. The findings demonstrated how the standard failed to measure different managerial and technical aspects of the job. Significant issues were found and will be presented in the working group’s final report to this committee. Interim measures have been proposed which were not opposed by the bargaining agent. The employees’ lack of classification knowledge was identified as an issue. The working group has completed the work on three standards (AC, FI and MG). On April 17, 2019, it will complete the work on another two standards (AU and CS). For the AU standard consultations, the CRA accepted to cover the salary of up to 22 participants located across Canada from a variety of AU jobs. This full day consultation, held on March 7, 2019, was a preparation for the joint classification consultation committee. The travel time and travel expenses for those employees will be covered by the PIPSC/AFS Group. It was also agreed that two employer representatives would attend this consultation meeting. For the CS standard, it was felt that reviewing the work recently completed by TBS on the IT standard would be an effective use of time and resources. It will also be reviewed on April 17, 2019. He said that the working group continues to work well together in a positive and open environment, and intends to present a full report of its findings at the next NUMCC meeting. The AC, HRB, had nothing further to add.
The President, AFS Group, said that the bargaining team was committed to reaching a fair deal for AFS members in a reasonable time. The union appreciated the support of the CRA in finalizing the last round of bargaining and is again asking for this support in reaching a new collective agreement without delay. He thanked the participants for attending this meeting and believes that these meetings are a productive use of everyone’s time. He said the union is interested in having more plenary sessions like the one held at the last NUMCC.
The Commissioner said that this was another productive meeting about areas of mutual interest. He encouraged us to keep the dialogue open and ongoing on these important issues. Our next meeting will take place on October 24, 2019. The AC, HRB, reiterated CRA’s commitment to achieving a collective agreement that is fair and timely with the AFS Group and that respects the parameters of our mandate.
Canada Revenue Agency
Audit, Financial and Scientific Group
Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada