The Commissioner welcomed the participants to the first NUMCC meeting of 2022. He spoke about the importance of NUMCC meetings to discuss significant issues and indicated that constructive and valuable discussions are also taking place at informal meetings. The Commissioner introduced the Canada Revenue Agency’s new Deputy Commissioner Brigitte Diogo and invited her to say a few words.
The Deputy Commissioner said she was pleased to attend the meeting. Although she only joined the Agency recently, she already has a good overview of the work being executed at the Agency and understands its ambitious agenda for the future. She stated that it will be an interesting challenge for her given the important mandate and the critical issues the Agency is dealing with. She recognized the importance of the People First philosophy and the need for ongoing dialogue as employees are at the centre of our decisions. She spoke about the unions’ important place in the organization as they are Management’s ears in the field. She shared a few words about her previous portfolios with other Departments and concluded by saying she was looking forward to supporting all of the management teams in the organization. She is looking forward to traveling and connecting with union and management representatives as well as with employees.
The Commissioner indicated that there were a few retirements and departures on the Management side since the last meeting. He highlighted the great contribution these participants brought to the Agency and introduced the new participants who replaced them. The creation of two new branches on April 1, 2022, led to the appointments of Harry Gill and Silvano Tocchi as Assistant Commissioners of the new Security and the
Digital Transformation Program branches. There were also important changes in the
Human Resources Branch with the recent departure of Maggie Trudel-Maggiore, former Director General of Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate who retired a few weeks before the meeting. He also recognized the tremendous work accomplished by Dan Couture, Assistant Commissioner of the Human Resources Branch, who announced that he was retiring after 32 years of service and leaving the CRA at the end of the meeting.
The Agency has been in a pandemic setting for two years now and is getting set to enter a period of transition. The Commissioner spoke of the important lessons learned from the pandemic and of keeping them in mind as we move forward. The preliminary phase of the transition plan will be launched on July 18 for employees currently working remotely that would like to work from a CRA facility. The health and safety of employees remains a top priority and he reiterated the importance of flexibility as the CRA navigates towards phase
1 of the transition plan. He indicated that the Agency will continue to be mindful of changes in the path of the pandemic, which is why it will be important to give employees as much advance notice as possible and have a gradual transition in place. The pandemic situation will be assessed frequently, and steps will be taken to adjust our actions which hopefully will help bring some certainty to our employees. He added that adjustments will most likely be required as we move ahead with the transition, but in the end, the goal is to find the balance between employees and taxpayers needs.
The Commissioner shared that the Agency is victim of its own success and is looked at as an organization that is able to take on challenges and assist other departments when called upon. Incredible work was done during the pandemic but it also came at a certain cost, and mental health is one of the biggest challenges we have had to deal with. He recognized that working during the state of emergency was very stressful and put a strain on many people. This is an ongoing challenge as we are continuously solicitated to accept new mandates, however we need give people a chance to recharge and be mindful of the importance of mental health during this journey.
On the topic of mandatory vaccination, the Commissioner was pleased to see that the mandate has been suspended. There are grievances that are still pending and he assured everyone that those are looked at very carefully. He recognized that circumstances have been difficult but he is hopeful that with new guidelines from the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), things will improve moving forward.
The Commissioner spoke about Budget 2022 and the International Comparison of the CRA’s Performance report, which assessed CRA’s performance compared to other similar tax administrations. Despite some issues with methodology and how the
Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) conducted his analysis, the report is a good indicator on how we performed and noted that in some areas we did better than average and less than average in others. Overall, our tax administration did well. The world is changing and he indicated that the road to world-class is a journey, not the destination. We can only strive for improvement towards world-class and this should be our driving force. He expressed that Canada should be proud of where it stands in the world. On the international scene, Canada is seen in a very good light.
There were important funding announcements for CRA in Budget 2022. The main highlight was the proposal to provide CRA with $1.3 billion over 5 years and $320 million ongoing starting in 2022-23 to expand audits of larger entities and non-residents engaged in aggressive tax planning, increase both the investigation and prosecution of those engaged in criminal tax evasion, and expand its educational outreach. The Commissioner emphasized the importance of educational outreach as the Agency wants to focus on People First and Education First approaches when it comes to compliance. As a result of these measures, CRA is hoping to recover $3.4 billion over five years and $1.1 billion each year on an ongoing basis. The Commissioner shared a high overview of the funding allocation and how it would translate for the CVB and CPB. Part of the allocation will be used to strengthen the Agency’s capacity to achieve effective coverage of compliance activities in line with the business and payroll client population it oversees. He indicated that we will be moving towards an expansion of business compliance program work and service enhancements for existing programs in order to keep reasonable pace with growing businesses and payroll client population needs. Furthermore, the CRA will increase the scope and capacity of its business compliance activities with progressive and responsible enforcement in stages over several years. This will consist in activities such as increasing the Agency’s presence in the regions across the country, providing additional educational outreach and services to businesses to help them better understand their tax obligations and increasing compliance efforts on non-compliant entities thereby being able to improve reviews and examinations. Three key business revenue lines that will benefit from this are GST/HST Registration, payroll accounts, and Corporate Income Tax filings (T2).
For the Compliance Program Branch, the Commissioner noted two initiatives for the Small and Medium Enterprises Directorate. These initiatives consist of expanding the number of audits of the largest medium-sized economic entities and establishing team audit approaches in the review of economic entities files, and expanding the Non-resident Audit Program to address non-complex compliance in the non-resident taxpayer population. Furthermore, these announcements are expected to result in an approximate increase of 1,200 additional full-time employees (FTE) at peak for CPB, 450 for CVB, and 75 FTEs for ITB. The Agency has grown a lot in the last years and the technological aspect also plays an important role in trying to accommodate this growth.
The President, AFS Group, welcomed the participants to the meeting. He highlighted a few changes in the ranks of the AFS executive group since the last meeting. He thanked Mark Muench for his years of service on the national executive group and welcomed Mary Lycett who replaced Mark as CS National Consultation representative. He also thanked Dan Jones, CS Regional Representative, for his contribution to the AFS executive Group and wished him a well-deserved retirement. With Dan Jones’ upcoming retirement, he indicated that Pam Kubicz has been selected as new CS Regional representative. He also wished the Assistant Commissioner, HRB a healthy retirement and thanked him for many years of open and honest dialogue, which helped in the resolution of workplace issues and contributed to the signature of numerous collective agreements. Despite a few disagreements, they had mutual respect for each other’s role for the common benefit of the Agency and its employees.
The President, AFS Group, expressed that he is looking forward to meeting again in person in the near future as he strongly believes in-person interactions are essential to the development of effective working relationships. The President, AFS Group spoke about the Government of Canada’s Strategic Policy Review, which aims to save the Government about $6 billion over five years. The plan consists in finding $3 billion a year in savings annually by 2026-27 by identifying opportunities to save and reallocate resources to adopt government programs and operations in a new post-pandemic reality. This is a broad mandate and it is not expected that CRA will be excluded from this review. Based on lessons from how the government adapted during the pandemic. Areas such as real property, travel, and increased digital service delivery could be targeted by this review. It is also expected that the government will assess program effectiveness in meeting the government's priorities in strengthening economic growth, inclusiveness and fighting climate change. While information is very limited at this time, the President, AFS
Group wants to ensure that the CRA understands the critical work done by AFS professionals in supporting Canada’s voluntary taxation system. He stated that he hopes that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us but he noted that the work done by
AFS members in the future will be very important to maintain Canada’s financial stability. To that end, the President, AFS Group, requested that the union be consulted on this strategic policy review particularly where AFS jobs or workload are potentially impacted. He concluded that AFS will fight to protect jobs of AFS Groups if they are threatened.
1. Centres of Excellence in the Regions
The union requested an update on the Regions expanded use of the Centres of Excellence and their plans for the future.
The Assistant Commissioner, Atlantic Region, advised that since the last NUMCC meeting with AFS, the Atlantic Region has begun a review of programs in the region to improve its current governance by considering branch expertise areas and providing improved career paths for employees. She noted that the Atlantic Region is currently in the first phase of this review, also known as the analysis stage. Discussions are currently ongoing between Atlantic Region and its regional colleagues to see what can be learned from their work. The Atlantic Region intends to consult other stakeholders as well, including the unions. It is anticipated that the Atlantic Region will face several challenges, noting there are complexities associated with the fact that it is the only Region with a bilingual province. She recognized that change can be stressful for employees but it also has to be considered as an opportunity to expand and deepen professional opportunities. The Atlantic Region will continue to support its employees during this process with any changes that may occur.
The Director, Montreal Tax Services Office (TSO), Quebec Region, indicated that the governance of several programs in the Quebec region are currently centralized. In spite of this current status, the Quebec Region’s senior management team believes that further opportunities to refine the governance model of certain programs may yet be identified. The Quebec Region has only recently begun preliminary deliberations on its targeted review process but the Director, Montreal TSO assured that various stakeholders will be consulted throughout the process, from the design phase to the implementation stage. While it is still early in the process, union partners will be consulted and invited to participate during the consultation process and before decisions are made.
The Assistant Commissioner, Ontario Region, said that the enhanced organizational structure that was implemented as a result of the Ontario Region Organizational Review (OROR) exercise launched in February 2021, was created through engagement and feedback from employees, managers, executive as well as consultations with both AFS and the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE) at the regional level. The structure is streamlined with a realignment of similar programs grouped together and a reduction in the number of Tax Services Offices from ten to seven. This reorganization aims to improve service to Canadians and promote more career opportunities for employees. There were no requirements for employees to relocate and for the vast majority, there was no impact on their day-to-day work. The new organizational structure was implemented on April 1, 2022, and the People First initiative was a cornerstone in the process with further engagement with employees, managers, executives, and an employee survey to measure satisfaction. She shared that information pertaining to the OROR process is readily accessible on the Ontario Region InfoZone page and is accessible in both official languages.
The AC, Ontario Region indicated that the roles of Directors and Assistant Directors under the new structure will remain the same as under the previous structure. Key activities for both roles include, but are not limited to, establishing and maintaining a management framework aligned with the Agency priorities, providing leadership and managing human and financial resources, establishing and maintaining effective union management relations, and building and fostering effective communication strategies. She specified that the scope of the Director role is at the tax services office level, while the scope of the Assistant Director role is at the divisional level.
The role of the Lead Senior Manager for Emergencies and Evacuations (LSMEE), formally known as the Responsible Building Authority, also remains unchanged in the new structure. She defined the role of the LSMEE, which consists in ensuring the health and safety of federal employees and visitors in the building, and the protection of CRA assets during an emergency. Normally, the LSMEE is the most senior official employed by the primary (major) federal tenant. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to, establishing a Building Emergency and Evacuation Team, approving emergency plans and reports, implementing, maintaining, and testing emergency plans, and liaising with Health and Safety advisors and other tenants to ensure compliance with emergency response and fire safety requirements.
For aspects related to human resources responsibilities, the AC, Ontario Region explained that staffing authorities continue to be delegated to management levels or to specific positions with the required HR delegation authority. Responsibility for grievances is outlined in the Y191 Designation of levels of the grievance process, which have been updated to align with the new Ontario Region structure.
To ensure a smooth transition, executive information sessions on programs, budgets, and accountabilities were held. In addition, executives and managers were provided with training, resources and tools to successfully support employees through this change. Now that the OROR exercise is finalized, the AC Ontario Region established three priorities to guide the work of the Region in the 2022-23 exercise. The first priority consists of continued implementation of regional operations optimization plans to improve program delivery, support the People First philosophy and enhance employee career path. The second priority focuses on talent development, management, and succession planning at all levels of the organization to foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. The third and last priority emphasizes on supporting the workplace of the future and hybrid work plans.
The AC, Ontario Region indicated that Director-led working groups were in charge of the systematic and strategic review of the Ontario Region’s approaches to work, work processes, the workplace, and the workforce to prepare and implement robust plans that prepared the Ontario Region for the future, including the hybrid model of work. The senior management team continues to implement the remainder of those plans while stabilizing the organization. She emphasized the importance of strengthening the Ontario Culture and deploying efforts to keep employees connected in an environment where teams are now more scattered than ever before.
The Assistant Commissioner, Western Region, indicated that the new Western Region governance structure was implemented effective April 1, 2022. The Region’s new structure consists of six Tax Services Offices and two Centres of Expertise (CoE), the High Complexity Audit TSO and the Western Client Contact Centre. Under the new structure, the leadership roles and corporate responsibilities remain the same as they were before, which means that Directors will continue to be responsible for their assigned office, and Assistant Directors will continue to be responsible for their assigned programs. Details of the implementation have been shared with regional union representatives and consultations with various stakeholders continue to be held. Similar to the Ontario Region, the role of the LSMEE hasn’t changed and continues to be the Agency’s most senior official in buildings where the Agency is the sole or major tenant in the building. This also applies to the Delegation of HR authorities, which aligns with the position taken by Ontario Region for staffing and grievances.
The implementation is expected to be competed within 12 to 18 months and will evolve with other initiatives such as the CRA Transition plan. Its progress will be assessed and measured through surveys and during continuing consultations to ensure the intended advantages of the organizational changes are being realized and risks are mitigated and managed appropriately.
The Prairies / NWT Region AFS Representative acknowledged that a lot of consultations were held in the Western Region and emphasized that it is important to keep those consultations ongoing. There will always be things that can’t be anticipated and changes will occur which reinforces the need for continued consultations to prevent new issues. He noted that there seems to be some confusion with the consultation requirements, such as identifying who will be at the union-management consultation meetings, where employees sit versus who where is the office they report to. In anticipation for this, several AFS representatives prepared the AFS consultation structure report and shared it with the Assistant Commissioner, Western Region. There are three main components to this model, starting with how the union-management committees would be structured, how they envisioned them, who would attend the meetings. Second component is about program changes and how consultations would be held, even in the Tax Services Offices themselves. Finally, they believe programs will be the dominant change so they identified how consultations would happen how they envisioned consultations would work best. They are hoping Management will provide feedback on this report. The Prairies / NWT Region AFS Representative said he would like to obtain organizational charts to identify where employees sit and who they are reporting to. He added that it would help not only with the representational structure, but it would also help Management representatives at the regional level too.
The BC / Yukon Region AFS Representative thanked the former AC, Western Region for his contribution of the past 3 years and welcomed his replacement. He began by saying that AFS members are not happy. He indicated that at the start of the Western Region implementation organization, AFS has asked for organizational charts but they still have not received them. The absence of revised organizational charts makes it difficult for AFS to locate employees and provide advice to their membership. He also was aggrieved with the lack of transparency from Assistant Directors who made non-advertised processes while candidates were available in AU pools. He noted that before the implementation of the new governance, employees have been advised that more opportunities would become available. However, they notice that many non-advertised staffing actions were made before the compulsory employment equity implementation. The BC / Yukon Region AFS Representative wants to know if CRA is going to take steps to improve Employment Equity at the Agency. On the subject of staffing competitions, he would like to know if running new processes is an efficient use of CRA resources while there are qualified candidates in valid pools. He was also aggrieved that CRA employees are disadvantaged when applying to staffing processes as they have to be interviewed and provide references before being placed in a pool, while external candidates don’t have these requirements. It can be frustrating for CRA employees to train new employees who don’t have the tax knowledge of AU3 and AU4 employees while internal candidates are sitting in a pool.
The Ontario Region AFS Representative indicated that as the consultation model is being finalized in the Ontario Region, he reiterated the importance for ongoing consultations at the local level. He stated that AFS is now reviewing the terms of reference of the consultation model and he hopes that the Ontario Management Team will be agreeable to this model.
The Toronto Region AFS Representative thanked the Assistant Commissioner, Ontario Region, for responding to all his questions and bringing clarity about some topics. He recognized that there were different structures and while this is not a cookie cutter approach, there’s a need for some consistency nation-wide. There are some logistic issues in the new structure that will require adjustments and CRA is a dynamic organization that will be able to adapt. His first question about the new model is, is this worksite versus designated workplace? There is a lot of staffing and retirement happening which causes a lot of movement in staffing. AFS is not requesting monthly lists but they would appreciate being provided with information on a quarterly basis.
The Toronto Region AFS Representative raised concerns about Communication Hub. While he recognized it was an effective tool that provides a lot of information very quickly, and it saves time to its users as they don’t need to search on InfoZone. However, he would like to see the tool being more user-friendly for union representatives who want to post information for their members. He added that posting a link of the PIPSC website is not going to be enough and is seeking Management’s approval to post information that will be useful for unionized employees.
On the subject of staffing, the Toronto Region AFS Representative said he was very interested in hearing about what is happening in other regions. He highlighted that each region is different and a lot of it is attributable to barriers and issues complying with language requirements. He reiterated the importance of the People First philosophy for program delivery. He stated that good communication and consultations need to take place, especially at the higher level to ensure we have career progression plans for employees. He concluded by saying a standard messaging is required to make sure we all understand what is happening in the regions.
The President, AFS Group, said they were looking forward to work with management at all levels to work through challenges.
The Commissioner reiterated the need to be flexible and adapt during this change.
The Assistant Commissioner, Western Region, indicated that a meeting was held two weeks ago to discuss issues around organizational charts and her team aims to provide the information requested by July 5, 2022. She added that comments about staffing and other issues have been noted and they will continue to collaborate with AFS representatives on these topics.
2. Workplace of the future – Journey to hybrid
The President, AFS Group, shared his appreciation for the regular monthly briefings and consultations that management has been providing on the CRA transition plan and the hybrid workplace of the future. He requested an update on CRA’s workplace of the future and the journey to hybrid model.
The Assistant Commissioner, Finance and Administration Branch (AC, FAB) mentioned that the Commissioner provided a good overview of the subject in his opening remarks and therefore, she will add more information to his comments and share her own observations. She said that the health and safety of employees continues to be a top priority and that the CRA will continue to ensure that employees who must report on-site are protected through the application of CRA national worksite and re-entry protocols. The physical and mental well-being of employees are also key considerations for journey to hybrid planning.
She indicated that following consultations with stakeholders and as announced by the
Commissioner on May 9, 2022, the Agency approved an amendment to the CRA
Transition Plan to include a Preliminary Phase to the transition plan effective July 18, 2022, and further transition to Phase 1 on September 12, 2022. Of note, employees who wish to work on-site during the Preliminary phase will be able to do so as long as they notify their manager in advance, that there is space available and have access to the worksite. An increased presence of internal services providers preparing the worksites for Phase 1 is also anticipated. The AC, FAB noted that the preliminary phase will also allow the Agency to take small and measured steps in advancing toward the hybrid work model while supporting the need of some employees whose preference is to be in the office to conduct their work. She added that this will also serve as a learning opportunity for the Agency.
During the second (ramp up) and third (unrestricted) phases, the Agency will see further increases in employee returning to worksites based on additional factors such as building readiness and bandwidth to increase in-office presence. The full resumption of in-person meetings is expected after the 2m physical distancing requirement loosens up.
At the end of the transition plan, the Agency will have a hybrid work model, with some employees working remotely, some working from Agency worksites, and others adopting a combination of the two. The AC, FAB, concluded that returning to the pandemic phase at any point remains a possibility if a new wave or a new variant brings the health agencies to reinstate restrictions.
The President, AFS Group, thanked Management for the update and shared that one of AFS’ recurring concern is the need for sufficient notice for employees who will be required to return to the workplace. He clarified that this notice is necessary given that a change in work location may require changes in childcare, eldercare as well as transportation and parking needs. He said he was satisfied with the Employer’s decision to let employees book their E-concierge reservations during work hours. He highlighted that there have been instances in the past where employees have been asked to do office reservations on their personal time.
Other questions remain unanswered. For instance, AFS would like to know what would happen to employees who had been directed to work remotely, worked from home during the pandemic phase, but who fail to sign their Virtual Work Agreement (VWA) by the deadline. The President, AFS Group also raised concerns with the requirement for AFS members to clean the office space at the beginning and end of the day, which doesn’t fall within their job duties.
The Commissioner committed to giving employees as much notice as possible. Although there was not much notice given at the beginning of the pandemic, the Agency will be more flexible for building re-entry, especially for employees whose position requires onsite presence but may need time to make arrangements.
3. Career development
The President, AFS Group, said the union would like to discuss the progress of the PIPSC Career Development Consultation Committee (PCDCC) and possible challenges going forward.
He started by acknowledging Management’s cooperation and participation in the creation of the Agency Career Development Consultation Committee and by providing the union with the required information.
He highlighted that clause 18.05 (Selection criteria) of the AFS collective agreement provides that selection criteria have to be established in order to grant Education leave without pay (18.02), leave to attend conferences and conventions (18.03), and for Professional development opportunities (18.04). After careful review of the draft selection criteria provided by the CRA, the union identified a gap in access to, and understanding of, career development versus on-the-job training.
The President, AFS Group, expressed that the data clearly shows that professional development is simply not happening. He claims that unless the CRA can develop selection criteria that will focus on professional development and job training, the situation is unlikely to change. He reminded everyone that providing access to career development, including professional development, is in the interests of both the Agency and its employees, and is in line with the People First service culture the CRA is striving to achieve. He also reiterated the importance of language training, which is often required for career opportunities beyond an employee’s substantive position. He concluded that AFS is looking forward to further consultations on career development and developmental opportunities.
The Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC), Human Resources Branch (HRB), thanked the President, AFS Group, for the opportunity to give an update on this important topic and also thanked the AFS representatives on the PIPSC Career Development
Consultation Committee for their work on this file. She added that their contributions have helped the Leadership and Learning Directorate (LLD) identify areas for improvement, along with initiatives that support the shared goal of promoting and expanding access to career development.
The DAC, HRB provided a few examples of the work undertaken as a result of the consultations. First, a few years ago, the Directorate started looking at increasing flexibility for learners, expanding access to career development and aligning with the Agency Future of Learning vision of continuous learning at anytime from anywhere. Career development was also integrated into other program activities, such as developing learning plans, setting performance goals, and highlighting the importance and benefits of career development through career management discussions. In December 2021, HRB and AFS started promoting access to educational assistance and career management workshops started being offered across the regions. Of note, HRB launched a review of leave and activity codes for learning activities to improve data accuracy.
As indicated by the President, AFS Group, the AC, HRB reiterated that over the past year, the Agency provided the union with the information they requested under clause 18.05. A summary of what was heard at national consultations on selection criteria was provided in July 2021. Five months later, Management provided an updated timesheet report of AFS members who were accorded leave under clause 18.05 Selection Criteria, those who accessed career development, and a list of internal career development opportunities. The draft selection criteria were shared in January 2022 for AFS’ review and feedback.
The DAC, HRB clarified that the role of the Committee is to share information, discuss problems, initiatives, recommendations, and the application of Agency policy to improve career development. AFS will continue to be engaged and consulted for next steps and along the process when exploring sustainable and positive employment and career outcomes that will benefit AFS members and the organization.
4. Mandatory vaccination
The President, AFS Group, requested an update regarding the scheduled six-month review of CRA’s vaccination policy due to concerns with the employer’s decision to place or keep unvaccinated employees on leave without pay. He clarified that the vaccination policy has been suspended with an effective date of June 20 and AFS would appreciate an update on the progress of the suspension of the policy. More specifically, they are interested in updates related to the return to work for employees who were placed on administrative leave without pay due to their vaccination status.
The DAC, HRB, expressed that, prior to the COVID-19 vaccination policy being suspended on June 14, its implementation in the fall went well. This was reflected in the high percentage of attestations completed, with a total of 97.4% for completion (as of June 6, 2022). It is of note that 99.6% of those who have completed the attestation are fully vaccinated, which is currently defined as having received two doses. The variance is mostly due to new hires who need some time to input their status in the system and this represents a little over 1,400 employees.
The Government of Canada announced on June 14, 2022, that effective June 20, 2022, vaccination requirements for employees of the Core Public Administration would be suspended. This decision was also supported by the Board of Management, who approved the suspension of the CRA Policy on June 15, 2022, and it was communicated to all employees in the Commissioner’s message sent out on June 16, 2022. The DAC, HRB outlined that although employees were advised they were no longer required to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, they were strongly encouraged to remain up to date with their vaccinations, including booster doses.
As a result of the Policy suspension, effective June 20, 2022, employees who were subject to administrative leave without pay because of their vaccination status were able to resume their regular work duties with pay. Accommodation measures and outstanding accommodation requests related to the vaccination policy ended. The DAC, HRB emphasized that consultations were held with various key stakeholders including Unions, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Compensation, and Information Technology to ensure pertinent information was shared with employees returning to their regular work duties. Of note, verification and audits that were underway before the policy suspension will continue. The DAC, HRB specified that on March 31, 2022, a total of 3,824 requests were sent to supervisors for verification of vaccination proof. As of June 17, 2022, 3,708 verifications have been completed, representing a completion rate of 97%. She added that all of the 3,708 completed cases provided acceptable proof of vaccination and only
63 cases couldn’t be verified because employees were on leave or have left the CRA.
There are 48 cases for which verifications are still incomplete.
On June 17, 2022, a targeted message was sent out to the managers and supervisors of the 476 employees on administrative leave without pay who would be returning back to their regular work duties on June 20, 2022. The managers received instructions and updated pertinent information to help them bring their employees back to work. On that same day, the TBS shared a copy of their Manager’s Toolkit for the suspension of the Policy. The DAC, HRB indicated that the Agency is currently adapting the toolkit to make a CRA version that would be available on Management Hub. The Policy related pages on Management Hub, InfoZone, and KnowHow have been updated to notify employees of the suspended Policy but will remain available for reference purposes only. The DAC, HRB concluded that CRA will continue to remain agile in its approach to the vaccination mandate.
The President, AFS Group, thanked the DAC, HRB for the update and said they appreciate the efforts the CRA has made since the announcement of the policy suspension to return employees to the workplace. He would be interested in knowing the impact for employees with inadequate vaccination if the vaccination Policy is reinstated in the future, especially for those with signed VWAAs who can work remotely. He ended by saying that he was looking forward to future consultations on that subject.
5. Internal Affairs Division investigations
The President, AFS Group, requested an update regarding investigations delays and he invited the BC/Yukon Region AFS representative to share the union’s concerns.
The BC/Yukon Region AFS representative indicated that the main concern with the process is that it is taking too long. He added that Internal Affairs Division’s (IAD) investigators are treating their members inappropriately and providing incorrect information. He shared a few examples to demonstrate how these delays significantly impact their members. First, it is the usual practice that the quantum for the discipline rendered would normally be known by the end of an investigation. However, the time it takes to complete an investigation is usually longer than the time-period the employee would be suspended for. In order to alleviate stress from their members, there have been instances where AFS suggested that a member should accept being suspended at the beginning of the investigation process for the maximum number of days provided in the Directive on discipline and grieve later. This suggestion has almost always been unilaterally rejected by the IAD. Another example he shared was the long delays experienced by employees who are place on indefinite suspension or when CRA doesn’t let them resign before terminating them. He said it was unfortunate that for situations like these, the CRA may take up to six months to finalize the process, which adds undue stress on the employee. Finally, the BC/Yukon Region AFS representative was involved in a situation where an IAD investigator had warned an AFS member that he was not to discuss the details of the investigation with anyone, not even with his personal lawyer. This situation resulted in a high stress level for the member significantly impacting their personal life. The employee told the BC/Yukon Region AFS representative they were afraid to discuss work-related matters with their spouse in fear of involuntarily disclosing confidential information. He was astonished that the member contacted his union so late in the process because of incorrect instructions given by the investigator. Although the outcome of the investigation was favorable to the AFS member, the individual ultimately resigned because they lost faith in the CRA and in the investigation process. The BC/Yukon Region AFS representative asked Management if the reasons behind the lengthy delays were attributable to a shortage of qualified investigators or the lack of proper training. He concluded by saying that this has been a recurring issue for many years and needs to be addressed.
The Assistant Commissioner, Security Branch (AC, Security Branch), said he would give an overview of what happened over the last three years and provide information as to what may have caused the delays but clarified that he was not going to discuss specific cases during this meeting. He began by acknowledging that in the 2019-2020 and 20202021 fiscal years, the Internal Affairs and Fraud Control Division (IAFCD) did not meet its internal service standard to complete 80% of internal administrative investigations into alleged employee misconduct within the established timeline (defined by the scope and complexity of an investigation) and achieved 72% in meeting service standards both fiscal years.
The AC, Security Branch went over the reasons that caused the delays and recognized that staff turnover throughout the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years had a significant impact on IA investigations. During this time, allegations more complex in nature were received and resulted in additional time and efforts required from the investigators, as well as the involvement of more subject matter experts from Legal Services, and the Human Resources Branch. Of note, the support the IAD team provided to help management address less complex allegations and situations resulted in fewer formal, narrow-scope investigations. He clarified that situations that can be addressed by management directly are generally resolved quicker than through an administrative investigation. The COVID-19 pandemic situation also led the IAD to place the administrative investigations on hold on March 16, 2020. Upon business resumption of administrative investigations on July 30, 2020, difficulty obtaining secure technical solutions to conduct virtual interviews containing Protected B information further impacted Internal Affairs’ ability to work through the inventory backlog.
The AC, Security Branch was pleased to share that for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the IAFCD exceeded its service standard target by achieving an 81% service standard and was also able to complete the backlog of all overdue files. This means that if new allegations are received, they would not be placed in the inventory and the file would immediately be assigned to an investigator. New measures implemented during the 2021-2022 fiscal year consist in the introduction of expanded and more intensive workload monitoring measures to provide assurance that newer intake would be completed within the target. Selection processes were held or are still in progress for various levels in an effort to stabilize resources. Finally, a process improvement review is
currently underway to ensure the work is completed efficiently, with appropriate tools and procedures, and is measured appropriately in line with the current environment.
The President, AFS Group, requested that the CRA provide statistics on the average length of investigations for the previous five years and the average age of outstanding investigations, by file complexity.
The Toronto Region AFS Representative thanked the AC, Security Branch for the update and enquired about the 81% benchmark rate and asked if it was the same benchmark rate for previous years. He also wanted to know how the Security Branch was able to identify that the service standard for the completion of investigations was met.
The AC, Security Branch clarified that for narrow scope investigations, the target is completion within 60 days, for medium scope under 90 days, the broad scope investigations under 120 days, and the broadest scope is within 150 days. The internal service standard is 80% of the time and depending on the scope of the file, they want to meet this service standard. It is expected that for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the IAD will be able to meet the internal benchmark service standard for a second year.
The Toronto Region AFS Representative asked Management if it is expected that the 80% benchmark will be attained for cases of all complexity levels or if it would be an overall percentage based on the average for all complexity levels put together. In addition, he would like to know how the Branch has improved its performance since investigations resumed. On the topic of selection process, he enquired about work performed by employees at the MG level compared to work done by employees at the SP level. Furthermore, he asked the AC, Security Branch if he has noticed an improvement for completion of investigations within established timelines and reiterated that investigations put employees under a lot of stress and it is important to focus on the human aspect during the process.
The AC, Security Branch replied that he has been in the role for about one year now and he is encouraged by the pace and the volume of work that is being accomplished and statistics are supportive of that. He is also encouraged by the external review the Division underwent and he believes some of the recommendations formulated will have a big impact, including additional training for IAD employees. Although he specified that investigators received adequate training, they will potentially be looking at options for specialized training with police officers or with the RCMP College. He offered to provide AFS with a breakdown for each category in the past five years. This will demonstrate how often internal affairs meet the 60-day completion rate for narrow scope investigations as well as for the other complexity levels. He clarified that administrative investigations are completed by investigators at the SP-08 and SP-09 levels while those who are in MGroles are in charge of managing a section.
Commitment: The AC, Security Branch, will provide AFS with a breakdown of internal affairs investigations by complexity level and rate at which the completion timeframes were met over the past five years.
6. Pay equity
The President, AFS Group, requested an update on a subject that remains an important issue for the union: the progress of the implementation of the Pay Equity Act at the Agency.
The DAC, HRB, began by stating she would give a few key dates regarding the implementation of the Pay equity Act. She advised that an official notice of the Agency's commitment to implement the Act was posted in November 2021. Information sessions were also held in November 2021 and were offered to employees, unions, managers and executives. The Pay Equity Committee was created in January 2022 and the planning sessions started on April 28, 2022. She clarified that these initial sessions allowed the Committee to lay foundation and address housekeeping items prior to beginning any work.
The DAC, HRB, outlined the next steps and factors that will be handled by the Pay Equity Committee. First, decisions will have to be made on methodology that will be used to assess value of work. For job classes, the Core Public Administration will be using classification groups and levels but for the CRA, this is a decision the Committee will have to make. The Committee will also be responsible for gender determination for job classes, data collection on work performed, evaluation of value or work, and assessing the gender wage gap. Finally, it will also be responsible for the preparation of the Post Pay equity Plan by September 2024.
Of note, payments for job classes where discrepancies exist will be identified. However, payments are not retroactive She concluded that collaboration is necessary for the initiative to be successful.
7. Classification review
The President, AFS Group, union requested an update regarding the classification review for the NU and MG groups and other classification reviews currently underway.
The DAC, HRB said she would first talk about updates for the nursing (NU) Group. She commented that in response to the concerns raised by AFS about medical adjudication work being done as part of the Disability Tax Credit Program, a thorough analysis of the classified jobs of this group was conducted. The review confirmed that the work for the
NU Group was better aligned with the NU-EMA subgroup used in the Core Public Administration. The CRA acknowledges that these jobs were not classified in the appropriate occupational group and will submit a request to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB) to add the NU group to its occupational group structure. As soon as approval from the FPSLREB is obtained, the new work descriptions will be implemented.
With regards to the Management Group (MG) reform, the DAC, HRB indicated that it is still in the early stages but CRA is actively pursuing classification reform activities and the
AFS Group will be kept informed throughout the process. The classification reform of the MG group is a priority because important pay equity issues have been identified and require immediate attention. To comply with the Pay Equity Act, the work must be implemented by August 31, 2024. Furthermore, she explained that it is necessary to resolve issues with the MG group before moving on to classification reform efforts for the AFS group. Classification activities must always flow from the top down and therefore, decisions made to the MG group will impact the classification reform for the AFS group.
The President, AFS Group thanked the DAC, HRB for her update. He started by acknowledging the support of CRA classification in drafting the joint application to the labour relations board for the creation of the NU-EMA Group. He added that further to a review by PIPSC, AFS issued a response indicating that they were in agreement with the application and would support it. He is looking forward to upcoming consultations for review of classification standards of all AFS members groups as previously agreed upon. He added that in addition to being outdated, most of these classification standards are not compliant with the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Pay Equity Act.
The Commissioner thanked everyone for attending this meeting and for interesting discussions. He reiterated that informal meetings held between the NUMCC meetings are equally important and he encourages the parties to engage and keep the lines of communication open.
The next NUMCC meeting is scheduled on October 18th, 2022, and the Commissioner is hopeful it will be held in person. He indicated that the while the pandemic has thrown us some curveballs along the way, he expressed that participants should be in good shape for this change. He wished everyone a happy Canada day and invited everyone to take time over the summer to be with their families, to rest and relax, and get ready for the fall.
The President, AFS Group, indicated that while staffing was not on the agenda, there are many concerns associated with it, including the routine use of non-advertised staffing. A Staffing, Programs and Activities meeting will be scheduled in the near future to discuss concerns and AFS representatives will also be participating in a staffing recourse redesign committee. He was aggrieved that no updates were provided or consultation scheduled in over two years and this needs to be addressed as well.
The President, AFS Group, enquired about the recent update of audit file ranges, for which the union did not receive advance notification about a possible change. He hopes this situation will be rectified and a full briefing on this matter will be provided.
He also shared a few thoughts on bargaining with senior management as the AFS collective agreement will expire on December 21, 2022, and AFS is preparing their bargaining demands for the renewal of their contract. CRA should expect being served notice to bargain in late August and begin negotiations this Fall. A number of priorities have been identified and the union will be looking at introducing protections for teleworkers in the next collective agreement. He shared that AFS members raised concerns around consistency and fairness of telework approvals, having a reasonable right to disconnect, that telework agreements will respect health and safety protections and that the employer pays a fair share of their expenses to work at home. The President, AFS group, stated that work is work, and employees working from home should be entitled to the same protections and benefits as employees who are reporting to an office. Provisions in the collective agreement should be expanded to incorporate more flexibility around hours of work, such as flexible work schedules. For example, he expressed that the new collective agreement should include Flex Time provisions for all AFS members.
On top of the list, pay remains AFS’ number one bargaining priority. In light of the drastic rise in the cost of living, the President, AFS Group, stated that a fair pay increase is more important this time than it has been in his thirty years at CRA. Pay concerns will be the main issue during the negotiations and he wants CRA to understand that they must be addressed seriously. He concluded by saying that the AFS Bargaining Team, stewards and members are prepared to do everything necessary to secure a fair collective agreement, including real wage increases for AFS members.
The President, AFS Group, thanked Management for their participation in this important forum and he is looking forward to ongoing consultations on the issues discussed and on new issues, as they emerge. He wished everyone a pleasant and relaxing summer, and a Happy Canada Day.
Bob Hamilton Doug Mason
Canada Revenue Agency Audit, Financial and Scientific Group
Date: October 17, 2022 Date: 27Oct2022
 On April 1st, 2022, the Security Branch was created and the Internal Affairs and Fraud Control Division (IAFCD) became the Internal Affairs Division (IAD).