UPDATED JUNE 22, 2022
Passport program workers at Service Canada have been stressed and stretched to their max. As the Union representing these workers, UNE has created this corner for questions and answers as hard-working employees navigate these difficult times.
Are you an employee working for Passport?
Send your questions or helpful suggestions to PPT@une-sen.org.
June 22, 2022
UNE met again with the employer on June 20, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly to have a more fulsome discussion. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.
Employer representatives noted they wanted to have more “deep dive” discussions, particularly with respect to a metropolitan strategy for passport, program streamlining, deployment of additional support, staffing and extended hours.
The Employer noted that actions were taken over the weekend that were put in effect immediately to increase Commissionaire and security with a police presence in the Montreal area in specific response to some of those acute issues. The employer says it reached out to any employee who would like to help out on a temporary basis and that more help is on the way. They further noted that they have asked for additional Passport Officers to help with triage, manage line-ups and answer client questions while they are waiting.
The UNE responded that the Union sent a letter to the employer asking them to cease asking our members to step outside and have direct interactions with the public as this a serious safety issue. The UNE further noted that it would support any member that exercise their right to refuse dangerous work
The Employer noted that they have started consultations with IRCC to streamline different processes and they would keep the Union informed.
The UNE raised concerns with how this could affect the security and integrity of the passport.
Deployment of additional resources/Staffing
The Employer informed the Union that it has ask for temporary deployment of resources and that a plan will be shared.
UNE raised serious concerns with respect to staffing and retention of Passport Officers. More particularly, the job content and classification issues that continue to exist. UNE pressed the employer to seriously consider the distinct function of the duties of a Passport Officer. As a response, the Employer committed to initiate a review and update of the work description.
UNE welcomes these discussions and is looking forward to consultation on the subject. UNE further noted that this project would need to be done in a timely manner to be concluded before PA conversion (Occupational Group Structure) in 2024.
The Employer committed to provide a list of sites where it has extended hours.
UNE advised that it wanted to know what these extended hours were. UNE told the employer that it was completely unacceptable to have our members work until 2:30 am in order to serve every client and when it realized it was not possible, had staff come back the following morning. The employer concurred and advised it would follow up.
June 21, 2022
UNE met again with the employer on June 16, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 as well as Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.
Employer representatives reported on their regions and updated the Union with respect to security measures in place, more particularly how the employer has increased its security.
Security & Communications
UNE appreciated the update and the effort to increase security, but it’s not enough. Notably, UNE indicated that Le Devoir had posted an article where Minister Gould said that “it is up to her Public Servants to offer, to those who show up in person, to process the passport application service 45 working days before departure or less.” This is not helpful. The offices are at capacity dealing with requests for those traveling within 24-48 hours, not days.
Discussions continue surrounding the health and safety of our members, and communications with clients and staff.
Our members are exhausted and overworked. The announcement of the lifting of the vaccination requirements to travel will cause another surge just before a long weekend and the simple fact is that the department will be even more short staffed with employees taking well deserved leave.
UNE recommended again, that the communication to the population be changed to be transparent: Do not make plans to travel if you do not have a passport. Furthermore, close comments sections on different social media platforms. They are not helpful at this time.
Although UNE is pleased to hear about some measures taken, we questioned the employer about how it intends to support staff that are witnessing acts of violence.
UNE also noted that it has again received inquiries about the right of employees to refuse dangerous work.
Training, Staffing & Quality Control
The UNE raised that the quality of training is causing concerns with our members. Our members have noted that there is such a push on service delivery and production, to the detriment of the integrity and security of the passport. UNE would like to have further discussions on this subject in a future meeting.
Finally, UNE raised concerns with respect to the staffing plan and would like to discuss in depth at a future meeting.
June 15, 2022
UNE met with the Employer to follow-up on the ongoing Passport issues. Kevin King, National President, Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President 10520, attended the meeting.
The employer and the Union discussed different priorities such as communications, service response and acceleration of training. The employer noted that it is currently reviewing the feasibility to provide more simplified training however, since every site is designed differently, the department will have to review this proposal by individual site.
UNE raised concerns with communications to clients and highly recommended that real-time wait times be posted on the website for each dedicated passport centre. This will improve client expectations because as the system works right now, people are showing up and becoming increasingly frustrated that the wait time is not as advertised. UNE also recommended that call centre messaging to clients be better scripted to minimize inaccurate information that may cause for more client irritability. Finally, UNE recommended that the employer be more present in real time on social media platforms, however, if the employer does not use social media in a more responsive way, that it closes the comments to minimize misinformation.
UNE further noted that the consistent messaging it heard through the site visits was the appointment system simply doesn’t work. UNE provided the example that appointments are supposed to be 10 minutes long, however simply put, just processing the payment takes 2 minutes. This doesn’t leave enough time to process a simple file, let alone complex files. Although it understands that the employer has put a lot of time, effort and funds into the online appointment system, it simply doesn’t work and should be phased out.
Finally, UNE commented again on overtime and that the employer should let employees work from home on paperless files and that the employer should have a more consistent and standardized approach. This will ensure not only the health and safety of our members but also provide for a better work/life balance.
June 14, 2022
UNE met again with the employer on June 9, 2022 as part of their commitment to meet weekly. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer and Nathalie Fitzback, Local President, Local 10520 attended the meeting.
Employer representatives reported on their regions and updated the Union with respect to security measures in place and how each region manages their lines. They also shared that executives and managers were on site and discussed strategies regarding commissionaire presence and particular issues that occurred, such as the printing challenges at the St Laurent office.
UNE raised concerns with ongoing security problems. Specifically, clients blocking entrances and having too much access to staff. The wait times shown on the website are inaccurate, giving clients unrealistic expectations. As a result, more people show up and lines become crowded with frustrated clients. Providing the correct information and managing misinformation coming out of social media would improve line ups and client expectations.
Overtime and Virtual Work
During our site visits we have asked how the overtime is distributed and managed.
Some sites offer virtual work, while others ask employees to work in the office on paperless files. This came as a surprise and is a concern for UNE since there are inconsistencies on how the overtime is managed from site to site. While we understand that this is up to the workplace, UNE hopes that the employer, on a national level, would encourage uniformity and virtual work.
As mentioned before, the passport officers are tired, and deserve a work/life balance, but they also want to be productive members of the team and work where they can. Offering virtual work would benefit both the employer and our members by files being done, and giving the opportunity for employees to go home and have dinner with their family (as an example) and then logging on and work on files a few hours. We hope that by raising this at this forum, the employer will communicate with their respective centres to support virtual work.
June 6, 2022
UNE met with the Employer to follow-up on the ongoing Passport issues. Manon Boy, National Labour Relations Officer, Nathalie Fitzback, Local President 10520 and Vanny Del Bianco, Local Vice-President 20088, attended the meeting.
The Employer provided a brief overview of the ongoing work being done to help with the Passport issues in the past week with some regional updates and noted they have worked on updating the website, simplifying processes and maximizing staffing plans.
The Employer also noted they have added management team members and increased the number of Commissionaires in some locations to improve employee safety.
Finally, the Employer shared that they now have extended hours in some centres with high volume.
UNE responded, raised concerns and asked questions, more particularly but not limited to:
- Ensuring safety of our members by better managing queues, the website and transparent communication with clients. If all of this is well managed, the aggressiveness and anxiety of clients will decrease.
- The website should show the processing time of each office (24h, 48h, etc.) and not the waiting time. This would be more transparent when it comes to realistic expectations. If the Employer insists on continuing to have daily reports, it would be important that they reflect the reality of the wait times.
- Concerns with inconsistency of the office closures. UNE was surprised to hear that the Employer stating that it has, in some offices, extended the hours, and that there was no consultation. The Union is concerned that some offices turn away clients when they are at full capacity while others serve all clients and end up closing the office at 11:30pm. This causes employee fatigue and mental health issues.
- It is false to claim that the surge will be in 2023. It has been known that clients renew their passports a year in advance and that part of the incoming traffic is in relation to the 10-year passport renewal.
UNE Commented on the different topics discussed during the House of Commons meeting on the passport service standards
Comments made with respect to Vaccination
When asked what the status of the vaccination was and calling these employees back to work, the response was that there are only a low number of employees not vaccinated and overall, it would not affect the numbers. UNE disagrees with that statement. Because of the urgency of the situation, UNE recommends that the Employer place a moratorium on the policy. UNE has members that have been denied duty to accommodate and are ready to work. The employer can easily accommodate them with rapid testing and teleworking.
Predictability of passport issues
UNE agrees with the comment on the predictability and foreseeable of the passport issues. What has the employer done during the pandemic to prepare?
Minister Gould commented that 85% of passport requests are first-time applicants. UNE questions the validity of this statement since we have learned that majority of the passport requests are applications for children’s passports and usually not their first application.
Service standard limited to 45 days: Why the changes when passport officers cannot handle 25 days out? Also, the UNE questioned why no information about this change was shared with UNE.
Increasing Staff and Organizational Issues
When asked about the 600 new hires and how many Passport Officers were already on staff, the answer was before pandemic 1500 / post pandemic 2100 were processing passport. The UNE questions this statement and further asked the employer: How many passport officers can entitle a passport? All the applications can be accepted faster by having employees who are processing passports, but there is a big difference in the outcome if at the other end there are not enough qualified Passport Officers who can entitle the passport. As such, this does not provide the true picture of how the employer’s staffing plan will help accelerate the production of passport.
With respect to the plan to increase staff and the 3-prong approach: realigning of staff, hiring and technology, UNE asked for the human resources plan and we would be interested in the discussions on that topic. With respect to comments made on management and organizational issues – the UNE would be interested in continuing the discussions since we have long term solutions to recommend.
Reaction from Employer
The Employer agreed to provide answers. Additionally, as a result of the overwhelming amount of information provided by UNE, it was agreed that, further to the weekly discussions, “deep dive” meetings would be scheduled to focus on discussing and finding solutions on specific subjects.
This is another update from Passport Corner. UNE is YOUR UNION and we are here to help! Contact us with your questions, concerns and suggestions at email@example.com.
May 27, 2022
UNE National President Kevin King, National Labour Relations Officer Manon Boy and Local 10520 President Nathalie Fitzback met with the Employer on Friday May 27, 2022. The purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the passport discussions that occurred during the Service-Union Management Consultation Committee (SUMCC) meeting.
Following incidents in some centres, the Employer agreed that actions must be taken in order to support the health and safety of our members and solutions be developed to ensure these types of incidents don’t happen again.
UNE noted that our members are anxious and afraid to go to work. They are also tired. The UNE further raised that the Employer should look into heightening security in what are considered “hot spots”.
UNE further raised that the Employer should look at processing simplification, updating its service standard online to manage clients’ expectations, and look at system reporting.
The parties agreed to meet on a weekly basis to continue the discussions.
May 25, 2022
UNE National President Kevin King and National Labour Relations Officer Manon Boy met with the Employer on May 25, 2022. The purpose of the visit was to report UNE’s observations and concerns raised during recent site visits.
Specifically, UNE raised the following concerns:
- Line management (between appointments/no appointment, transfers, pick ups)
- Staffing, onboarding and transfers
- Health and safety issues including violence, hair pulling, shouting, aggressive behaviour by clients, long term effects on mental health, stress and anxiety (some members have been followed in the parking lot), and fatigue
- Service standards
- Lack of communication between Service Canada and Passport offices
- Inconsistency of signage (Proof of travel, harassment and violence)
- Inconsistency of screening processes between offices and call centres
- Lack of training spaces
- Ineffective use of social media (always answer with links to complaint/link to follow up the status of the request)
- Unrealistic client expectations
- Concerns with the security and integrity of the passport
- Ensure staff finish their workday on time
- Time to disconnect from the workplace
- Fear that due to the operations, leave requests for the upcoming summer would be cancelled or not approved
- Lack of communication between IRCC and Passport Canada regarding long and short passport demands (Review system harmonization)
- Capacity management and predictability ahead of time
- Policy review
- All level of employees feel they are not heard by upper management. In fact, they wish more executives would actually visit and observe their daily struggles and listen to ideas that could easily be implemented at low or no additional cost.
UNE proposed the following recommendations/solutions:
- Review of transfer processes
- Review of policies
- Review of the services standards: Update Service Standards on the web and call centres
- Clear communication line between Service Canada service centres, call centres, and Passport centres. Be clear, truthful and transparent. This will certainly help manage the clients’ expectations
- Have a clear staffing/HR plan
- Update signage
- Use social media effectively by providing concrete answers
- Ensure staff can disconnect and can plan their evenings
- Plan for proper staffing
The Employer noted the concerns and agreed there was much work to be done.
Future meetings will be scheduled to continue the dialogue.