Correspondence between UTE National President and CRA Commissioner

​Anonymous letter received by Robert Campbell from a member in Toronto in March: 

As you may already know, the Toronto Centre TSO Call Centre is being shut down. There are currently approximately 200-300 term employees who are potentially being subject to layoffs starting April 5th, 2017. What I do not understand and seems completely absurd to me is that while the CRA is laying off staff who are trained and know the system, CRA has an external advertisement for SP-04 & SP-05 positions in the Greater Toronto Area (amongst others) for newly graduated students (Requisition number 51683982; final deadline for applications is March 19, 2017; email address for applications is Why is the CRA prepared to hire newly graduated students (must have graduated no later than July 1, 2015) and spend time screening them; training them on CRA systems etc. while at the same time, laying off staff from the Call Centre who are already trained and can easily fill these positions. Therefore, transferring the term employees to these vacant positions that were reserved for newly graduated students would not only save costs of the CRA staff involved in the hiring process; training process of new staff, but would also save the government money in terms of the EI costs that would inevitably have to be paid to the laid-off staff. Clearly it makes no sense whatsoever to have an external competition in the GTA for staff at the SP-04 & SP-05 levels when the CRA is potentially laying off SP-04 & SP-05 staff from the Call Centre. Therefore, I would ask that the Union bring this matter up to the Commissioner and head of Human Resources and would demand that this external and all external job advertisements at the SP-04 & SP-05 levels in the GTA for the CRA be cancelled until all Call Centre staff both permanent and term are given job offers in the four GTA offices. Furthermore, if the situation is not remedied in the near future (before layoffs are announced) or senior management is not willing to remedy this situation, I would suggest that the union go to CBC News and discuss this situation with the “GO PUBLIC” department at CBC news and bring it to the media’s attention just how ridiculous it is to layoff trained staff while hiring new staff for the same level and what a waste of money it is for all the reasons given above. It is time to take action at a senior level to protect the health and well-being of current staff members whose jobs are being threatened at the Toronto Centre TSO Call Centre. Sincerely yours, Anonymous.

Robert Campbell sent this email, along with these questions, to the Minister of National Revenue:

I want you to be aware of the type of emails that I am receiving regarding Service Renewal in the CRA and the effects it is having on the lives of my members. The one below is only in regard to the closing of the Toronto Call Centre, but I have received hundreds of similar email and concerns from members across the country in regards to the impact these decisions are having on people’s lives. 

Minister, you committed to our Executive Council in December 2016 when we met, that you would look into the issues that we raised with you, one of which was the delivery of the Service Renewal Initiative at CRA. To date we have not received any further updates from your office on these matters.   

We respectfully request any assistance you may be able to provide.

Robert Campbell, President, UTE
The Minister forwarded his enquiries to the CRA Commissioner for his response, which Robert Campbell received in May:

Dear Mr. Campbell, 

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, has asked me to reply to your email outlining the concern of one of your members regarding the release of terms in Toronto and the hiring of students and recent graduates through an external selection process. 

The Service Renewal Initiative announced in November 2016, will allow the CRA to strengthen its client-focused services, improve its capacity in terms of compliance, collections and auditing, and ensure the long-term viability of its presence in all regions of the country. The Service Renewal Initiative will improve the way the Agency’s workload is managed by consolidating processing activities in fewer sites, and by creating three new National Verification and Collections Centers that will keep employees working in these locations but doing different work.

In preparation for this transition, the CRA examined its nine call centres to identify efficiencies while minimizing the impact on employees and maintaining its level of service to Canadians. While the work in the Toronto Centre call centre will be consolidated to other call centres and this location will cease its operations, a significant presence will remain in the Toronto area, including one other call centre in Toronto and one in Hamilton. 

The CRA is committed to striking the right balance between internal staffing and external recruitment. Due to high attrition rates across the federal public service, recruitment has become a focal point in the rejuvenation of our workforce and in developing the next generation of public servants. Over the next 5 years, 32% of our workforce is eligible for retirement. The CRA has developed an Agency Workforce Plan which focuses on proactively replenishing our workforce with the skills and talent needed for the future. Recruiting students and recent graduates is an important part of that plan.  

While some term contracts will not be renewed, this is part of normal operations related to program fluctuations and changing business needs. Although fewer term employment opportunities will be available in certain locations due to the reduced workloads from processing paper documents and the transfer of activities to other centres, the nature of the CRA’s work means that there will always be a need for term employees. Where possible, they have been offered other term positions within the CRA. Term employees can also apply for new permanent positions and other term opportunities.

In addition, we are leveraging our close working relationships with other government departments to share information and identify potential opportunities for our term employees. We are also creating inventories of qualified term employees for future needs. We value the contribution of our term employees. We have invested in their training and skills, and we will seek to rehire them in our future staffing.

The CRA continues to work together with the unions during this transition. It is my understanding that management is communicating with local and regional unions to provide updated information on work sequencing, possible opportunities for term extensions and administrative conversions so they are completely apprised of the term population’s status. As well, ongoing meetings are being held with your representatives at the national level, to provide a forum to collaboratively discuss the concerns of your members and consider possible solutions. The Assistant Commissioners of Human Resources Branch, Collections and Verification Branch and the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Assessment, Benefit and Service Branch have recently met twice with your representatives to provide updates on Service Renewal and discuss any issues related to implementation. Further meetings are planned, with the next meeting scheduled for June 2nd. The CRA and its unions have an excellent track record of working together during times of organizational change and I hope that this cooperative relationship will continue.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns. 

Robert Hamilton, Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Canada Revenue Agency 
Below is his response to the Minister of National Revenue:

I am compelled to write to you to express my profound disappointment in the manner in which you dealt with my email enquiry to you of March 22, 2017.

When you met with our Executive Council in December of 2016, we attempted to communicate to you the gross lack of respect the Canada Revenue Agency was showing its employees, especially in regard to the rollout of their Service Delivery Initiative.

You committed to us during that meeting that you would personally look into those issues.

Not only did you fail to return to us with any update on the action you promised you would take, but to exacerbate the lack of respect, you chose to have the CRA Commissioner, the very source of our concerns, respond to my subsequent enquiry on the matter.

To add even more insult to our injury, we are fully aware that the responses prepared by the Commissioner to the enquiries that you send for his reply are not even prepared by the Commissioner himself, but rather by a member of his staff.

This response in particular is rife with platitudes and does not respond directly to the issues I was attempting to bring to your attention.

It seems very clear to me that the issues we raised with you have fallen completely on deaf ears, and that you are not very interested at all in our concerns.

We were so impressed and hopeful that the first-ever meeting between a Revenue Minister and the Union of Taxation Employees would spark the beginning of a return to the sound consultation and collaboration we once enjoyed with the Canada Revenue Agency.

We could not be more disappointed to learn that does not appear to be the case.   

Robert Campbell, President, UTE

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