CRA employees head back to work after union reaches tentative deal with Ottawa

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (May 4, 2023, 12:15 PM EDT) -- The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has reached a tentative four-year agreement with its striking workers, with 35,000-plus union members expected back on the job by 11:30 a.m. EDT May 4.

In a May 4 statement, the CRA said that it “has already taken measures to resume its normal operations and to fully restore services that were affected during the labour disruption” which began April 19.

According to the taxation agency, the proposed deal with the Public Service Alliance of Canada — Union of Taxation Employees (PSAC-UTE) includes wage increases of 11.5 per cent over four years, retroactive to 2021, that will cover periods until 2025. The third year also includes an allowance of 0.5 per cent, as well as a one-time payment of $2,500.

In its own statement, PSAC-UTE noted that for its members who are approaching retirement, the pensionable lump sum payment will contribute to their average salary for their best five years of service and increase their overall pension payments in retirement.

PSAC-UTE said its bargaining teams unanimously recommended that union members approve the tentative deal, via online votes in the coming days.  

The union described the wage increases as totalling 12.6 per cent when compounded over the life of the agreement from 2021-2024, with the pensionable $2,500 lump sum payment representing an additional 3.6 per cent of the $67,300 average salary for union members.

The proposed deal on remuneration reflects terms included in the recent tentative agreement between the Treasury Board and PSAC, which also represents 120,000 employees in the core federal public administration, who returned to work May 1 after eight days on strike.

PSAC said the tentative agreement gives UTE members better protection from arbitrary management decisions about remote work.

“We have negotiated language in a letter of agreement that requires managers to assess remote work requests individually, not by group, and provide written responses that will allow members and PSAC to hold the employer accountable to equitable and fair decision-making on remote work,” the union said. “Having all remote work requests reviewed on an individual basis will prevent future ‘one-size-fits-all’ -type mandates like the government announced” in December 2022.

The union added “that means employee rights around remote work arrangements will be protected through a grievance process, and grievances that are not settled prior to the final step of the grievance process can be referred to a new joint union-management panel for review in each department to address issues related to the employer’s application of the remote work directive in the workplace and to make recommendations to the assistant commissioner of human resources for her consideration in responding to final level grievances.”

The CRA and PSAC-UTE also agreed to create a joint committee to review and update the telework policy for the government that was last updated in 2020.

Remote work has been a sticking point in the federal government’s negotiations with PSAC-represented bargaining units.

The CRA said that it “continues to be committed to a modern, hybrid workplace that provides employees, where applicable, with the flexibility to continue to work up to three days from home a week. Outside of the collective agreement, the CRA and PSAC-UTE reached a tentative settlement on telework to the satisfaction of both parties. Both parties agreed to undertake a review of the directive on virtual work arrangements, and to create a panel to advise the commissioner and deputy commissioner regarding employee concerns.”

The CRA said its tentative agreement with the union representing taxation employees “addresses all key priorities put forward by the PSAC-UTE. In addition, it includes improved provisions, around leave with pay for family-related responsibilities, for example. It also includes measures to further support employment equity, diversity, and inclusion, such as a new benefit for Indigenous employees who will now have access to paid leave to participate in traditional practices.”

In its description of the tentative agreement, PSAC-UTE also highlighted:
  • new language to ensure that in the event of layoffs, preference must be given to PSAC-UTE members over outside contractors. “This language will protect union members’ jobs and reduce contracting out in the federal public service,” the union said.
  • new language that allows workers to request the ability to start work as early as 6 a.m., and that stipulates that such requests cannot be unreasonably denied. “This gives workers the option to shape their workday to match their personal and family responsibilities,” the union said.
  • an increase in shift premium to $2.50, “the highest of any PSAC collective agreement,” along with “an improvement in vacation accrual, with the threshold for accessing four weeks of vacation dropping from eight to seven years of service, representing the best accrual for PSAC members in the public service as well as improved access to family-related responsibility leave and bereavement leave.”
  • an agreement to end the CCAAT call-monitoring system in CRA call centres within 18 months.
  • an agreement that the “CRA will review, share and encourage the integration of the recommendations emanating from the PSAC and Treasury Board Secretariat joint committee created to review the existing training courses related to employment equity, diversity, and inclusion, and to ensure employees are fully aware of training opportunities available to them during their work hours.”
  • the addition of paid leave for Indigenous employees to engage in traditional Indigenous practices, including hunting, fishing and harvesting.

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