MAY 3, 2018
The AFS Group President welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced Debi Daviau, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) who will address questions directed towards her about the Phoenix pay system.
The Commissioner spoke about the importance of this committee in building relationships and constructively discussing issues. He congratulated his management team and the bargaining agent once again on the signing of the new Collective Agreement. He looked forward to another productive discussion about issues of importance to all of us. He spoke of his recent visit in Toronto, to lend support to employees, following the tragic event that occurred on April 23, 2018. He was moved by how employees, having witnessed horrific things, came together to support each other in these difficult times. He also reminded us of the importance to watch out for ourselves and use the support and assistance available to those who need it. It gave him pride to see how the Agency demonstrated flexibility and how they are moving forward as a team.
The Deputy Commissioner stated that we continue to be focused on ensuring our employees have a great workplace and that they are fulfilled. Great examples of this include CRA’s recognition as one of the top 100 employers in Canada for the first time this year and providing our employees tools they need to develop professionally such as access to Twitter and LinkedIn for employees’ personal development. We have also consulted employees on several topics including the Service Culture, a key priority for the Agency. She also recognized the work of employees who were key to another successful tax season.
The AFS Group President thanked the Agency for its response following the events in Toronto. He appreciated the quality of the support shown to staff. This was the first NUMCC since the signing of the Collective Agreement and he spoke of the good progress made, for the most part, in the implementation of the Memorandums of Understanding. He expressed concern with the recent interactions the union had with the Agency from a labour relations perspective and hoped for more productive union-management interactions in the future. Both the Agency and its employees benefit from productive union-management relations. He also believes in making CRA a world-class tax and benefit administration organization. He expressed being gratified by the presence of the senior executives at the NUMCC.
The PIPSC President spoke of the opportunity in this forum to raise broader issues of importance to all of government. She emphasized the importance of consultation as being essential to the union’s relationship with the employer. She was pleased to join the NUMCC to participate and to bring a useful perspective to these important discussions.
The AFS Group President was pleased to see the recommitment of the parties to the UMA philosophy. The AFS Group remains totally committed to resolve issues through informal conflict resolution. He recapped the principles of the UMA philosophy that include a commitment to be constructive, fair, sensitive and courteous in our dealings with each other.
The Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate (DG, WRCD) provided an update. At the beginning of 2017, the Agency Management Committee (AMC) requested a comprehensive review of UMA. This included a review of the training products, the training delivery model, and the governance structure. The National UMA Committee formed a working group to evaluate and make recommendations in these three areas. As a result, a three-pronged approach was mapped out to the training content and its delivery. The first two components of the training were finalized and recommended to the National UMA Committee as ready to launch. With respect to the governance structure and the third component of the training, they were recently presented to the National UMA Committee at a meeting held on April 25, 2018. On May 2, 2018, these recommendations were presented at AMC. We are now in a position to schedule a signing event with the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner and the Presidents of both unions in the coming weeks. The event will be followed by the launch of the first two components of the UMA training. The third component of the training will be piloted over the next few months with an anticipated launch date in the third quarter.
The AFS Group Vice-President was excited to witness what has unfolded over the last few weeks. He commented that the relationship with the Agency was positive. The parties talk even when they don’t agree. This speaks to the covenants of the UMA Philosophy that we are committed to following. He looked forward to the roll out of the training products and the signing event.
The Commissioner was pleased with this development. He expressed that through discussions, solutions can be identified going forward. He said it is up to all of us to ensure that this philosophy permeates through the Agency. He expressed that the union has the full support from management.
The AFS Group asked for an update on Phoenix.
The Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Human Resources Branch (DAC, HRB) provided an update. Good progress has been made by CRA Compensation in reducing outstanding inventory despite additional work implementing the collective agreement. As of April 18, 2018, the CRA had 16% of employees with an open case over 30 days old. On average, the Compensation Client Service Centre (CCSC) answers 9,200 calls per month. In April 2018, call accessibility was averaging 70% (calls were answered within 3 minutes). This increased from 69% in March 2018. She advised that the CRA was also aligning with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS)’s government-wide approach for additional flexibilities to the recovery of overpayments, emergency salary advances and priority payments to reduce the financial burden on employees impacted by Phoenix issues. CRA has informed employees of these new flexibilities and that additional information will be shared. She also stated that the CCSC continuously adjusts its work disposal plans to address the backlog of aged inventory focusing on key transactional work including enquiries inventory. It should be noted that approximately 35% of the current aged inventory is attributed to overpayments, a workload that will remain given the new flexibilities introduced by TBS. With the signing of the AFS Collective Agreement, Compensation is well prepared with a dedicated team to address retroactive adjustments and manual payments within the negotiated timelines. Employees could start to receive payments as early as May 16, 2018.
The DAC, HRB stated that CRA has also developed a tool called “Helping employees with Phoenix-related issues”, which is a webpage for managers posted on the Phoenix Hub and will be promoted in the Managers’ Corner. Since the last NUMCC, the Public Affairs Branch (PAB) and HRB worked together on a survey sent to staff to obtain their thoughts on CRA’s tools and the information available to help them understand and resolve Phoenix pay issues. An action plan has been prepared based on the results to address areas where services can be improved. In January 2018, the CRA also launched two new mandatory online courses on human resources and pay for all Government of Canada employees that were developed as part of the “HR to Pay” initiative.
The AFS Group President expressed serious concerns with respect to Phoenix. Prior to the implementation of the Phoenix pay system in early 2016, the union had asked CRA to wait until serious issues being reported were resolved. He said that management’s response at the time had been that the implementation would be seamless. He said that in the spring 2016 NUMCC, management acknowledged there could be some unknowns with Phoenix, however, they had a solid post-implementation model in place to react quickly to issues and that major pay issues would be resolved within one pay period. He indicated that two years later, the number of problems only keeps growing. He said that management had committed to resuming normal operations by June 2016. This did not happen. He acknowledged that what was under CRA’s control was done right and he appreciated the availability of senior compensation advisors to work with AFS stewards to triage and resolve the most serious compensation concerns. He appreciated the efforts made to process the retroactive pay adjustments in the last round. He said that after two years of promises, improvement has not been realized and he expressed that the union’s frustration was warranted. At the fall 2017 NUMCC meeting, the AFS Group President asked the CRA to make paying its employees correctly and on time a priority and to consider other options. He said that in March 2018, the AFS Group met with subject matter experts in Compensation who confirmed that a solution was available. CRA’s pay system completes all the necessary pay calculations which are then sent to Phoenix for final processing and paying of employees. In fact, CRA runs payroll every two weeks to do costing and could extend this to pay its entire workforce. He stated that this would eliminate any Phoenix related pay issues that have plagued CRA employees since its introduction. The union stated it was previously advised that CRA needs to obtain a mandate from the federal government to finish the conversion to pay everyone through CAS. The union stated it was also previously told that there would be an estimated stabilization period of six to nine months. Even if this is slightly longer, this is still far better than the years that AFS Group members already endured Phoenix failures and the four to five years that it has been estimated to stabilize Phoenix. The union agrees with management statements that Phoenix problems are unacceptable. That is why the union is asking CRA to go to the federal government for the mandate to pay its employees using CAS so that over 40,000 federal employees would not have to endure Phoenix problems any longer. The union has not been told that CAS could not be used. The union has been told that CAS is not fully programmed to process pay. The union understands that CAS would need to be programmed for our needs and could be by our highly competent CRA AFS IT professionals.
The AFS Group President recapped the current Phoenix issues including the recovery of overpayments that has caused financial hardship for its members; untimely pension payments; incorrect acting pay; lack of details provided by CCSC; recalculations; retroactive pay when promoted from SP to AU; bilingual bonus; and, incorrect T4s. He expressed concern with the CRA unwillingness to look at any alternatives to Phoenix including CAS.
The PIPSC President acknowledged that while CRA is doing everything it can for people to get paid, these efforts have not been successful and Phoenix will never be able to pay employees correctly. The union is experiencing pressure from its members to resolve this issue. She acknowledged the disagreement over a solution. She stated the union’s solution was the right one. She expressed concern that because of this disagreement, it seemed to be impacting the overall relationship with the organization. She acknowledged CRA’s commitment to do consultation and how the union appreciates its relationship with the CRA. She explained the knowledge that she has been collecting and discussions she’s had with industry and professionals such as software vendors and engineers. This was to ensure the union would not propose a solution that was not technically sound. She expressed disappointment in the response she has received from the CRA and the whole of Government on the union’s proposal. She expects that the union’s proposal will be sound and support the common objective of an enterprise-wide solution. She expects the union’s solution can be implemented within one year. She expressed a desire to work with the CRA on this solution rather than create a rift in our relationship. She maintained that the CRA model highlights that Phoenix is the problem. She maintained that SAP will continue to be the active software used to support a pay system and that SAP is widely used across the whole of Government. She maintained that the CRA model can be duplicated and expanded throughout the whole of Government. It will not take 6 years as previously estimated. The PIPSC President asked about the retroactive calculations and whether these are done in CAS. She also raised a general concern regarding negative feedback she’d received on the lack of relevance of the mandatory training. With respect to the retroactive calculations, the DG, WRCD confirmed that it is a collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the calculations are done in CAS. The Deputy Commissioner spoke about how the files were made ready before the retroactive pay was run. There was effort to ensure the files were ready for PSPC, since quite a number of transactions had to be treated manually. She confirmed the Agency has a sturdy plan to meet the time commitment of 150 days. With respect to the training, she stated that the experience at the CRA was different. Managers are automatically prompted to complete their Section 34 authorization. She expected new employees and managers would have had some takeaways from the training. She did acknowledge some of the feedback received around the length of time to complete the training. Subsequent to the meeting, management asked for a statement to be added to the minutes to indicate that PSPC is responsible for pay calculations and this is done in Phoenix. CRA does not send pay calculations to PSPC except for the pre-conversion overtime adjustments and pre-conversion leave cash-outs. These amounts are a very small portion of the total amounts paid. CRA performs calculations in CAS to assist compensation advisors with reconciliation only.
The Commissioner stated we all have the same objective. The Agency was doing relatively well compared to the rest of the Public Service. Resources in the Human Resources Branch are doing everything they can to contribute to the overall front. The Deputy Commissioner continues to play an important role in the Public Service on this issue. He stated we have formed a good constructive relationship with the unions and acknowledged that there will always be issues, either between us or in the environment around us. He expressed looking forward to seeing the union’s proposal. CRA has committed to work within the federal government and do the best we can for our employees. However this process unfolds, the Commissioner provided his commitment not to disturb the good progress and the path we are on together. He acknowledged the frustration and expressed being proud that the CRA was doing everything it can to fix the problem as soon as possible.
The Deputy Commissioner stated we have spent a lot of time to understand what works in our model. The CRA has a role to play in how the Government of Canada advances stabilization of pay. We have identified three key success factors in our model. First, we have invested in our own system for the last twenty years. The Corporate Administration System (CAS) has allowed us to facilitate the integration with the pay functions of Phoenix. Second, this automation has allowed us to have better controls and approval cycles for our HR actions. Our success has been dependent on the long term investment in our system and in our culture change in terms of how employees and managers enter and approve information in the system. Third, our Compensation Advisors and making the choice to hire more compensation advisors to ensure a quality control every pay cycle. Some of these success factors may be portable to other government departments. We also focused a lot of efforts on the tax front, adjusting our processes as much as we can, all the while making sure that the fairness of our tax administration towards all employers is safeguarded. The CRA and the rest of the Public Service remains invested in exploring other options and the next generation of the pay system. CRA is looking to alleviate some of the pressure on the PSPC by implementing additional features in our systems to facilitate our own work to pay employees and alleviating the pressure on the PSPC. She acknowledged the union’s passion to fix this situation and appreciated the trust built between the parties. She expressed valuing this relationship. She underlined the importance of working with the Public Service as we would be tapping into the same resources as the rest of the Public Service. The CRA is aware of what the issues are and they are very hard to fix. This is a highly complex issue. She did share that while the cases over 30 days have depleted recently, resources are being dedicated to the retirees and implementation of the collective agreement, so this downward trend may slow. The Deputy Commissioner committed to sharing information on the dashboard with the union to provide updated information on case resolution with the CCSC.
Action Items: The latest information from the Dashboard report will be provided to the union.
The Assistant Commissioner, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs Branch (AC, LPRAB) provided a briefing on this topic.
The AC, LPRAB stated that the Budget 2018 built on previous funding commitments made in 2016 and 2017. Budget 2018 will play a key role in helping to ensure that the CRA is operating as a world-class tax and benefit administration and pursuing excellence in each of its strategic priorities – service excellence; compliance; integrity and security; innovation; and, a clear focus on its people. He stated that to address CRA’s commitments to service excellence, Budget 2018 proposed $206 million over 5 years and $33.6 million in ongoing funding to be deployed in 3 key areas – improving telephone service; doubling the size of the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program; and, updating and modernizing the CRA’s information technology for a more user-friendly experience. Budget 2018 also proposed an additional investment of $129.3 million over 5 years to help prevent tax evasion and improve tax compliance and audit programs both domestically and offshore. Furthermore, $30 million in funding over 5 years was proposed to enhance the security measures that protect the confidentiality of the personal and financial information of taxpayers. He stated that fairness and integrity remain CRA’s guiding principles, informing decisions and underscoring conduct.
The AC, LPRAB also stated that a number of measures designed to close tax loopholes have also been introduced in Budget 2018 to strengthen existing anti-avoidance rules and prevent unintended tax advantages obtained through the use of complex partnership structures. He further stated that a number of legislative tools proposed in Budget 2018 will support CRA’s compliance efforts, such as extended reassessment periods granted in particular circumstances. He confirmed that Budget 2018 proposed a number of measures that will afford the CRA the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to effectively and efficiently administer key government initiatives, such as implementing the new Canada Workers Benefit in 2019, a new electronic platform for processing trust returns, the fuel charge component of the carbon pricing system, and the excise duty regime for cannabis products.
The AFS Group President appreciated the update. He recognized the impact of the tax fairness campaign on government’s decision to increase funding. He noted the dramatic improvement in audit results from increasing investments in audit.
The Commissioner agreed that good work led to good results, with additional resources allocated on compliance and service. He further stated that CRA’s world-class tax and benefit administration and service culture must be part of everyone’s job. He talked about taking an integrated approach on compliance and service going forward. He stated that Budget 2018 provided an opportunity to take an Agency wide approach in these matters.
AFS Classification Matters
The AFS Group President requested an update from management on this standing agenda item.
The DAC, HRB provided an update on behalf of the working group. It first met on December 14, 2017 and agreed to Terms of Reference as well as a draft methodology. The methodology will be to examine each standard in the AFS Group to determine associated issues and identify short and long term strategies to rectify them. The AC occupational group was identified as the first standard to be examined. A second meeting was held on February 14, 2018 to discuss the results of each side’s respective examinations, and to discuss the lessons learned from this exercise. The first meetings went well and both parties were satisfied with the format. The FI group is the subject of the meeting on May 23, 2018 and the MG group is the subject of the meeting on September 12 and 13, 2018. The first report will be provided at the next NUMCC since only one standard has been examined to date.
The AFS Group President commented that the first meetings were open and productive sessions. When it came to examining the FI group, as a larger group than the AC group, a more modest approach was proposed including one conference call and one meeting in Headquarters with a limited number of participants. He expressed disappointment in the Agency’s response to deny time to be spent on this activity. This would have resulted in the FI group who perform the duties of these positions not commenting in any meaningful way on their classification standard. He stated it appeared that the employer had withdrawn its support, and hoped it wasn’t the case. He hoped the employer would meet its commitment made during bargaining. The AFS Group will absorb the costs of meeting with members of the FI group. He indicated that he expected this process to be labour intensive and that the meeting scheduled in May would have to be postponed. He hoped that the Agency will continue to work with the AFS Group to complete this important work.
The PIPSC President acknowledged that classification was bigger than any one department. This review has been overdue. She stated that the time spent collecting feedback from members should be covered by the employer. She stated that the union will cover the costs, if they needed to, but it will slow down the process. The PIPSC Negotiator added that this was a question of logistics. He understood it was unreasonable to consult with all members. There should be a discussion on the logistics to meet the need to bring back quality information to the working group.
The Commissioner encouraged the parties to work together to find a solution that meets the interests of both parties.
The DG, WRCD indicated further conversations would take place on this time request. The AFS Group President acknowledged the Agency’s support in this important work.
Action Item: The working group will provide its first report to this committee at the next NUMCC.
Action Item: Further discussions to take place between the AFS Group and Labour Relations on the matter of time spent in collecting information from the FI group.
Agency Workforce Plan
The DAC, HRB provided an update on this topic. She thanked the AFS Group for their continued willingness to provide their feedback on the Agency Workforce Plan (AWP). On October 27, 2017, both unions participated in a Workforce Planning Advisory Committee meeting. Their participation was well appreciated. Both unions were also provided with early drafts of the AWP. Following receipt of the feedback from the AFS Group, additional information was provided on key initiatives of interest including Data analytics, business analysis and project management. The AWP remains an important corporate document that enables the CRA to realize the objectives in the Corporate Business Plan. The AWP has been posted on the InfoZone.
The AFS Group appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback in the early drafts of the Plan and looked forward to providing feedback on the next plan in the fall.
Action Item: The CRA is committed to consulting with the AFS Group on future AWPs.
Public Service Employee Survey / Public Service Employee Annual Survey
The Assistant Commissioner, Public Affairs Branch (PAB) as the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) Champion provided an update on this topic. He first acknowledged the work and the support of the previous PSES Champion, the Assistant Commissioner, International, Large Business and Investigations Branch through the transition as he took over as PSES Champion.
He stated CRA’s participation rate of 68.8% exceeded the Public Service rate of 61.3%. The response rates for both the CRA and the Public Service were significantly lower than the 2014 PSES participation rates of 82.8% and 71.4% respectively. Throughout the survey administration period weekly meetings were held with the National Steering Committee (NSC). The PSES Champion acknowledged the Toronto Region AFS Representative for his continued participation and engagement on the NSC.
The PSES Champion provided some positive changes from the last PSES survey. He noted that three-quarters (76%) of supervisors indicated that they receive the support they need from senior management to address unsatisfactory performance issues in their work unit, 10 percentage points higher than the overall Public Service. A vast majority of the Agency employees said that they liked their work (80%), were proud of it (86%), and were aware of the impact of their contribution (84%). He also noted that 58% of employees indicated that they are satisfied with how matters related to harassment are resolved in the Agency, 8 percentage points higher than the overall Public Service (50%). However, the percentage of employees who reported having been harassed remains relatively unchanged from 2014 (15%) to 2017 (15%). Almost three-quarters (73%) of our employees feel that the CRA does a good job of raising awareness of mental health in the workplace, 6 percentage points higher than the Public Service.
He also noted a few areas where results have remained unchanged since 2008 which could signal a need for additional attention. A little bit more than half of the employees have felt that the process of selecting a person for a position within their work unit is done fairly. Around 63% of employees feel that the CRA does a good job of supporting career development. The results in all five senior management themed questions are consistently between 50% and 60%. This theme includes senior management decision making, confidence in senior management, senior management leading by example in ethical behaviour, information flowing from senior management, and senior management resolving concerns raised in the survey. Since we received the national results at the end of March, we have been further analyzing the results, we’ve rolled out tools to visualize the data, identifying trends, and examining demographic data in an effort to better understand the findings. The data reflected that further analysis needs to be done at the NSC with respect to the AU and CO occupational groups.
The PSES Champion noted that in the past, National, branch, regional, and even local office action plans were prepared to address issues identified in the PSES. That approach is no longer feasible with the PSES now occurring annually. The new approach will involve working with HRB program areas, and Agency-level Champions and various networks (including the MG, Your Professional Network (YPN), etc.) responsible for related topics (Well-being, Official Languages, Employment Equity, etc.) to address results and help each area to address their concerns. The results will serve as an input to activities, not the sole driver. Results will be shared with all groups involved in an effort to measure the success of ongoing initiatives and identify areas where additional work may be needed.
The AFS Group President appreciated the detailed update provided. He noted that UMA and working well together perhaps helps with the good morale in an office. He is concerned by issues identified in the survey including the handling of discrimination and harassment complaints. He stated that the Discrimination and Harassment Centre of Expertise has had many challenges and extended an offer of assistance to improve the situation.
The Toronto Region AFS Representative would also like to see a greater focus on harassment and discrimination, and work together on a strategy to identify and explain the core issues. Through the Union-Management Approach and other tools, respect in the workplace issues can be resolved. He indicated the top source of employees’ stress was wellbeing, in particular as it relates to their compensation related issues. He would also like to see the Agency take a holistic approach rather than a segmented approach (MGs, YPN and executive level). He would also like to see the Agency track the positive rollout of the Positive Space initiative to curb issues immediately. Finally, he hopes that, if we are moving away from the three-year survey, the Agency will expand on the questions from the previous survey so that they do not become routine.
The Commissioner also commented that actions are being taken based on the results, demonstrating to employees issues are being taken seriously and that tangible efforts are being made. He recognized the Agency is asking employees to respond to a lot of surveys. He expressed concerns over the results in the area of harassment and discrimination. He acknowledged processes were in place to manage the issues when they arise. Employees must have trust in us that we will pay attention, take action and do the right things. We are doing the right things and need to look at ways to improve upon them.
The PIPSC President stated that this was an opportunity for greater collaboration with the unions regarding the development of action plans and of future surveys and determining key questions to ask employees.
The AFS Group President was pleased at the recommitment to UMA. He stated that the AFS Group would continue to advocate for a long term solution so that its members will be paid correctly and on time. He stated the parties will be back in bargaining soon and it was his hope that the parties collaborate with respect.
The Commissioner thanked everyone for a good session and appreciated everyone’s efforts toward productive discussions. He expects an interesting year ahead. A lot of focus will be placed on service to Canadians and how to better communicate with Canadians, taking a more client-centred approach. He looked forward to another productive session in the fall.
The PIPSC President recognized the work of CRA employees and saw an opportunity to collaborate together on raising CRA’s profile. Members of the AFS Group are passionate about the work that they do.
Canada Revenue Agency
Audit, Financial and Scientific Group
Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada