3 days a week: message from UTE National

Three days at the office: a decision that will not go down well

May 2, 2024

Sisters, Brothers and Friends,

Yesterday, the federal government announced, in a cavalier manner and without any consultation with the unions, that starting September 9, 2024, federal public service workers will henceforth be required to report to the office for a minimum of three days a week.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), despite being a separate employer, chose to immediately follow Treasury Board’s lead, without even waiting to consult the two unions representing the vast majority of its employees. The employer merely notified us at the last-minute yesterday afternoon, just before making the announcement to employees at the end of the day. It is extremely disappointing and insulting when the CRA simply follows Treasury Board blindly when it comes to making changes to its policies, even though the Canada Revenue Agency Act expressly allows it to set its own policies.

The choice of the announcement date is highly revealing of this government’s and the CRA’s total lack of respect and consideration for workers. After all, May 1 (May Day) is International Workers’ Day. What a slap in the face! But come to think of it, it’s not all that surprising. The CRA has shown for some time now that it has no respect for its employees, especially the members of our union.

The federal government and the CRA don’t care about the well-being of their employees. They care more about pleasing municipal and provincial politicians, as well as the lobbyists for Chambers of Commerce and businesses. They don’t care that this decision has a negative impact on the quality of life and work-life balance of our members and their families. To hell with the consequences for the environment and the climate crisis!Our members are furious, and rightly so.

Last year, under the terms of a Letter of Understanding reached during the last round of negotiations between the Union of Taxation Employees (UTE)/Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the CRA, the employer was to consult our union in order to update the outdated Virtual Work Arrangements Directive, as well as its policy on the Rollout of On-site Presence at the CRA. At no time during the discussions held at the Joint Union-Management Consultation Committee on these issues was there any question of increasing the rate of on-site presence. Moreover, the agreement stipulated that if any changes were made to virtual and hybrid work arrangements, the employer was to inform and consult us on the matter.

This ill-advised and hasty decision, without bothering to consult the unions and employees, is completely unacceptable. It shows a lack of respect and even contempt.

Many of our members tell us time and time again that, once they’ve arrived at work, they spend their days in front of a screen, videoconferencing with colleagues across the country, just as they do when they’re working from home. So why force them to go on-site? It’s totally ridiculous and makes no sense.

Furthermore, we have every right to wonder how the employer will get everyone inside its offices safely and properly when the federal government is divesting itself of several buildings and announced in its last budget that it will continue to sell government buildings.

This sudden decision has broken the bond of trust between UTE members and the employer. In addition, the employer acted in bad faith during the last negotiations, and our union fully intends to ask the PSAC to file an Unfair Labour Practice complaint against the CRA.Our union will work in concert with our colleagues in the AFS group at the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), who also work at the CRA, and with the PSAC and its other Components. Together, we will take action to challenge and denounce this unacceptable and disrespectful decision.I can assure you that your union, the Union of Taxation Employees, will not stand idly by in the face of this insult.

As you probably know, our union has already asked its members to boycott all activities related to National Public Service Week (NPSW), which will be held this June. This further lack of respect for our union and for you, our members, is simply too much. For those of you who were still planning to take part in NPSW activities, here’s one more reason not to, and we are asking you to join this boycott.

The Canada Revenue Agency prides itself on putting People First. Instead, we believe that the Agency has chosen, like Treasury Board and the current government, to put the provinces, big-city mayors, Chambers of Commerce and business people across the country first and foremost, before the well-being and quality of life of its own employees.

We intend to take concrete action to publicly denounce this decision and will keep you informed of any new developments or initiatives in this matter over the coming days and weeks.

Our union greatly appreciates and is proud of the excellent work you do every day in the service of Canadians. Thank you.

In Solidarity,
Marc Brière
National President
Union of Taxation Employees