The Canada Revenue Agency will be hiring up to 2,000 new call centre agents to help Canadians file their tax return in an unprecedented year that saw millions of taxpayers rely on the Canada Emergency Benefits during the pandemic.
These new call agents will join the ranks of PSAC and the Union of Taxation Employees to handle the sharp increase in call volume that’s expected as Canadians grapple with the impact of COVID-19 on their taxes. The announcement is a victory for PSAC and UTE who have been advocating for years to hire more staff at call centres across the country to better serve Canadians.
CRA will also be introducing a new call-back feature to save callers time on the phone and extending call centre hours throughout tax-filing season.
However, PSAC is disappointed to see that CRA will also be outsourcing roughly 130 jobs to a third-party contractor to answer general questions about the emergency benefits available to Canadians. These jobs should be public service jobs, and included in the hiring at call centres.
“We all remember CRA’s miscommunication around CERB last year. A private call centre that can only answer one half of a citizen’s questions before being transferred to one of our call centre agents is going to make the problem worse because of the churn within private call centre worksites and the opportunity for increased wrong responses,” stated Marc Brière, National President of the Union of Taxation Employees.
In addition, there are serious concerns about an outside firm answering questions from Canadians about their taxes, though CRA insists these third-party agents will not have access to taxpayers’ personal information. Canadians may believe they’re speaking with a CRA representative may accidentally divulge their personal information.
Outsourced call centre agents won’t get the same rigorous training or be held to the same high standards as CRA employees.
PSAC-UTE has raised these objections with the employer, and are considering all options to halt the outsourcing of public service jobs at CRA call centres. Tax season will be especially difficult this year, and Canadians deserve to be served by the very best the public service has to offer.