To my right is my colleague Corinne Pohlmann. She's the director of national affairs. To my left is Lucie Charron, who is our economist. They've both done a lot of work with the revenue agency, which we'll talk about.
We've been waiting 18 months to give this presentation. We were only told on Thursday, so we don't have the details we would like to have in terms of current examples, but we do have this report, which I hope has been distributed. It's the Canada Revenue Agency review, five years after a small-business audit of the CRA.
As background first, the revenue agency hits every one of our 105,000 members. It hits virtually every business, so it's a very important agency for us. What we've done with this report we did in 2001 and again in September 2004, and we audited the revenue agency at their request.
They asked us to do this second report, and as you can see in figure 1 on page 2, we ask if there has been a change in level of service during the past five years of the establishment of the agency. As you can see, there has been some improvement, with 11% saying it's better, 62% saying it's the same, 13% saying it's worse, and 14% saying they don't know. That's better than the 2001 survey. In the highlights in the grey area on the front page, during the past five years the CRA has improved in four areas: accessibility of staff, knowledge of staff, promptness of replies, and speed in processing refunds. The performance during the past five years has declined in four other areas: availability of information, simplicity of information, willingness to provide interpretation, and levels of penalties. With this report, we not only asked our members; we did a survey of tax service providers. They're the ones who work with CRA on a regular basis.
If you turn to page 4, you can see the service quality indicators we've picked, and there were 17 of them. At the time it was CCRA, so three of them were with customs, so we can ignore that. The others were about staff--accessibility, knowledge of staff, promptness of reply, treatment by staff, information and forms, availability of information, readability, simplicity, and access to information on the website. The third category is interpretation of rulings, and the fourth is refund and penalties. On page 5 we talk about staff, and as you can see, there are business owners' responses and tax practitioners' responses, but the same categories are identified--accessibility of staff was identified as the biggest concern, with 39% saying it's poor, 12% saying good. Promptness of replies: a third of our members said this was poor and 13% said it was good, but if you look at tax practitioners, one out of two tax practitioners said promptness of replies was poor. Forty-three percent of tax practitioners said accessibility of staff was poor. And this is one we think the agency should work on: if you look at readability and simplicity of information, 42% said it was poor, 6% said it was good, and then the tax practitioners--the experts--almost 40% said it was poor, and 8% said it was good. Availability of information: one out of four tax practitioners said it was poor.
If you go to the next page, we talk about rulings, and this is another area where people identified. Again, 60% of tax practitioners said speed of rulings and interpretations was poor; 3% said it was good. Willingness to provide interpretations: 45% said poor. If you look at the penalties and refunds, the refund process has improved, but levels of penalties both tax practitioners and business owners say is poor, 70% saying levels of penalties have increased.
Page 7 highlights this grey area, changes between 2001 and 2004. We rank these categories and show where they've worsened and where they've improved. Again, availability of information has worsened, both from the business owners' perspective and the tax practitioners' perspective. Readability and simplicity of information has worsened, both from the business owners' and tax practitioners' perspective.
I'm galloping through this, but I also want to talk about the auditor performance on page 8. It has improved, and I want to highlight that. People say they're more knowledgeable, their professionalism is good, and their courtesy has improved. But the time spent complying with audits has increased from 6.6 days to almost 9 days.
Finally, the big one I want to talk about is compliance costs. The overwhelming amount of paperwork involved in complying with a tax system is the number one factor contributing to compliance burden, as identified both by tax practitioners and business owners. The average cost for tax compliance for a small firm is $3,000 per employee.
Mr. Chair, the final gem I want to throw in here is figure 14. If you can see figure 14, you say that 71% of tax practitioners said that compliance costs on small firms have increased during the past five years. One of the mandates of CRA is to improve service and compliance costs.
The final issue is proxy measurement. We've presented this to the agency and the commissioner. Proxy measurement looks at the tax collection cost, the cost per dollar in tax collected, and you can see that the costs are actually a little higher than they were before the agency. It's about two cents per dollar collected. In Australia, it's one cent for every dollar in taxes collected.
As far as recommendations—and I know that the commissioner presented yesterday, and he listed his three priorities, but one of them wasn't service—we think that CRA should make service a big priority. We think that CRA should make reduction of compliance costs a top priority. They should measure the compliance and paperwork burdens and set real targets, and report to this committee annually on their progress. We think they should set customer service standards, and the code of conduct should be improved, as they did in B.C.
We were going to hand it out, but we didn't have the copy translated, although it will be translated for you. But there are things here, which I think could be enhanced, that the department can do. It's really an update of the fairness in clients rights code. We think there should be a more proactive approach to communicating tax changes.
We'd like to talk about it at questions, but we did work very well with the agency on the GST and what's required to reduce the rate in July. We had to do it with the agency, and we got it out to our membership. We think there's something that can be done there.
Our goal is to comply with the tax code. We think it plays a major role in our economic development and small-business growth. We think it has improved, but there's more that can be done.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
That's not fully answering your question.
We've put it out. It's on the website. There's a hotline to call. It was a good example of what needs to be done to put out information quickly. It wasn't on the website. It was very hard to find on the CRA website right away. We simplified it.
Next we're going to survey our membership and find out how it went. But right now, we're not hearing too much. I think people are getting ready to do it. It's a tough time to do it--on July 1--but I think they're ready.
I also want to highlight how great the department was, but more importantly, it's a case study in which the finance department has done the policy and has then told CRA to implement it. Often we want both parties at the table, because when you have a policy, it's terrible if it's implemented poorly. We may support reducing the rate by 1%, but if you don't know how to do it or you don't have the time to do it, it could be a disaster. So this is a great example of all three parties working.
Finally, we asked our members where they go for information and advice important to their business. “Government” was just above “other” for where they would go for information and advice. They go to their suppliers, their advisers, and their trade associations. As a matter of fact, the smaller accountants are using this and distributing it to their clients.
Anyway, it was a case study. We're going to follow up on it in terms of how prepared they are.
We also put it out in the media. We had about 150 media hits. It went to all the rural newspapers to inform them of what was involved.
We think they're prepared. We're not hearing any bad news about it.
First off, six of the worst categories are under customs now—and we have another presentation to make, because there is now a customs agency that we have to work with. So you can see that under category 5, there are six.... It used to be the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, but now it's the Canada Revenue Agency. So when we did it, we thought customs would still be there, and they weren't, so there are six that are gone.
Second, even if they've improved, they're still not very good. For example, let's say accessibility of staff has improved; if you go to page 5, the accessibility of staff to tax practitioners has improved, but 43% still say it's poor, whereas only 12% say it's good.
So the answer is that the overall level of service—on page 3, figure 2—has improved. The survey also asked about the revenue agency's level of service during the past two to five years, and you can see that 2004 survey shows that the service level has improved over 2001. So there is some improvement happening, generally. Even in figure 1, if you look again at the change in level of service, there is slight improvement from 2001. It doesn't mean, though, there aren't some major things that need to be fixed by category, such as readability and accessibility of information, the promise of replies, and penalties.... So it's a mixed grade. I would give it a C minus, if I were to give it a ranking. But I would think that in certain categories there are F's, and in other categories there are some B's.
An hon. member: You're a tough marker.
Mr. Garth Whyte: I am a tough marker: you should see their budget report card.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Garth Whyte: Hopefully you'll give him some more minutes, as I steal some of his time, Mr. Chair, but I would also like to say that there was a time—when the GST was introduced—when the revenue agency wouldn't talk to us and we wouldn't talk to them. The relationship has improved immensely, where we now have a really good relationship, especially at the senior management levels. A lot of the challenges that we're pointing out here are also the challenges of the agency, which they know they have to deal with; I just want to make that pretty clear. But the CFIB's relationship with the revenue agency has improved immensely over the years.
Yes, it has been measured.
Thank you for that question. It's very good—and we didn't even talk beforehand.
In this report, we identified overall average costs for firms with let's say 12 to 15 employees. Those costs are about $18,000. Costs in a very small firm are up to $3,300 per employee. And this report was done in 2004.
We did a groundbreaking study, “Rated 'R': Prosperity Restricted by Red Tape”, which talked about the overall paper burden of all levels of government—federal, provincial, and municipal. We think this is a major issue that should be attacked by this minority government. When we did the study, our researchers had a 15-page formula, which we got them to distill down to a page, and we worked with Stats Canada and people in the Privy Council Office, who looked at our methodology and said it was fine. In just looking at business, we found that the overall paperwork and regulatory compliance burden was $33 billion a year.
What we handed out to you was one page from that report, which talked about the most burdensome federal regulations. If you look at the top four, they're all related to the CRA. There are two in particular: the GST-HST is the number one compliance burden issue, with 71% saying it's important and burdensome; and 60% say that payroll taxes, such as the CPP, QPP, and EI, are important; and 57% say income taxes are. When you layer on top of that the change in rules—the complexity of the rules, and not knowing what the rules are, and not getting interpretations—they really do hurt in terms of compliance costs. When the compliance costs and decisions are more difficult, they create uncertainty. When they create uncertainty, they hurt productivity and growth.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, Mr. Whyte. We've met before, and I always appreciate your input.
Just for your information, the committee is here, and any time you do want to forward to us some of your studies or some of the items you're working on, you should let us know.
I think you were aware that we were working on the CRA. Even if we didn't decide to study it at the last minute, you could have provided us with some details, because these are issues on which I think you're in closer contact with the people than we are at different times. So any time you want to forward something through the clerk, I think it would be appreciated by the committee members.
Most of my questions have been covered by my colleagues. I don't want to get into a political discussion, but just to understand your members in terms of owners, why would they think the reduction in GST would be more advantageous? I understand from a retailer point of view, but for a business owner who is selling and purchasing, the effect is zero, because it's a consumer tax, not necessarily a business tax. They are getting their money back on the inputs.
Sometimes it has been done, and it's been hard to inform people that it's been done. I think CRA tries to do this a lot. They used to have a small-business advisory committee. We see it as such a significant issue that we've made it one of our top priorities. We did a major report, which we distributed across the country.
I'm co-chairing, with Industry Canada, a paper burden reduction committee, which I think CRA should follow. The committee sets out a ten-step process based on what other jurisdictions are doing, what other provinces, including Quebec, have done, what the Dutch have been doing, what other places have been doing, and what works.
The first thing this report, which I can table with the committee, does is to make it a priority. You have to have a long-term commitment and a shared vision, and you have to have champions that will do it and make it a point.
The second thing is that you have to measure it. If you don't measure it, you can't improve anything.
Third, you have to set targets. For example, our report said we wanted to reduce from 40% to 20% the number of people who identified readability and simplicity of information as being poor. And there are specific areas where you can do that. We have some examples. I don't want to use up all the time, but we've got lots of examples of where we think things can be improved.
Finally, we think rather than just making a cultural shift, there needs to be an actual priority assigned within the commission, saying that we want to make sure that we're going to improve service--even though it's been good. Information on some consumer rights needs to go out to various taxpayers, saying here's what you need to know: you have a right of appeal, you have a right of notice. There are a bunch of things that could be linked to this.
So we think there are quite a few things that could be done.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. On behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, thank you for giving us this opportunity.
I have with me Betty Bannon, who's the national president of the Union of Taxation Employees.
I want to first of all thank the standing committee for inviting us to appear this afternoon.
The CRA is an important part of the government's operation and structure. It is one of the largest definable parts of the government, and, notwithstanding its mandate, is well respected by the majority of Canadians. This fact is in no small part due to the skill and hard work and dedication of the 26,000 PSAC-UTE members who work for the CRA.
I should like to say at the outset that while this five-year review is legislatively mandated, a fundamental restructuring of the CRA would not fit well with PSAC, our component--the Union of Taxation Employees--or the thousands of members we are privileged to represent who work for the CRA. Let me say off the top that I acknowledge that the government has every right to restructure and reorganize the operations, but these rights should be tempered. They should be tempered in the case of the CRA because of the enormity and complexity of the restructuring that created the CRA a little over five years ago, a process that is still incomplete, in terms of some significant human resource issues that we'll address in a minute.
Members of the committee should understand that the adoption of the legislation that created the CCRA was not the end of the process. The CCRA workforce that was represented by the PSAC and by UTE and CEUDA--which is the Customs Excise Union Douanes Accise--which are our two components with members who were transferred from Treasury Board to the CCRA, went through a certification process that took fully 18 months and cost our members tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, we were not in a position during this period to exercise our full rights with regard to collective bargaining, and let me explain that.
While we negotiated with the CCRA management during the period and successfully reached an agreement, the Public Service Staff Relations Board deemed our agreement to have been an agreement in terms and conditions of employment rather than a negotiated collective agreement. Thankfully, we were able to reach an agreement at the table, because until we were certified by the PSSRA, we did not have the right to strike or the assistance of a third party through the establishment of a conciliation board.
There are consequences to restructuring, particularly when the restructuring changes the official employer of the government department or agency workforce. As members of the committee are aware, despite its relative youth as an independent agency of the federal government, the CCRA has gone through a significant restructuring in its own right. On December 12, 2003, Canada Customs was transferred to the Minister of Public Security and Emergency Planning. Notwithstanding our position that this was an appropriate restructuring of government operations, it had a significant impact on our members who were transferred to the Canada Border Services Agency as well as on those who remained in the more narrowly defined Canada Revenue Agency.
In its first report, “The First Five Years”, the CCRA had this to say, and I quote:
|In 2003 the Agency initiated the development of a new classification standard for the Program Delivery and Administrative Service occupational group, which covers approximately 75% of the CRA employees. However, the work has been temporarily put on hold as a result of the departure of Customs to the new Canada Border Services Agency.
Leaving aside the fact that we don't believe that the CRA, like the federal government in general, has moved quickly enough to update what is truly an antiquated classification system, there can be no doubt that restructuring within government departments and agencies delays the process, with significant negative consequences for the workers we represent.
I said at the outset that governments have every right to restructure and reorganize their operations, but in addition to the tangible impacts of restructuring, some of which I have outlined in the CCRA, CRA, and CBSA situation, there is a view strongly held within our membership that there is no stability within the government's administrative structure, and that while change may be a good thing, constant change undermines the morale and the effectiveness of public institutions.
As a result, we strongly encourage the government, and particularly a government in a minority Parliament, to take a step back and allow some of the restructured departments and agencies, including the CRA, a period of stability, a period of time to complete some of the processes, including classification, that are both necessary and desirable.
That said, there are issues at a more micro level where we think change can and should take place. I will start with a few comments on collective bargaining, and Betty Bannon will talk briefly about union-management relations, and particularly staffing and staffing recourse issues.
I want to start by saying that I am a CRA employee and have been employed for 34 years with Revenue Canada, CCRA, and the CRA, and I can say I've witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly with the department and the agency as a front-line worker and as the national president of the union. In fact, one of the members around this table, I used to call Minister.
It may surprise you, but I can say that our relationship under the CRA structure is mostly good, and certainly better than when we were a department of the government. That said, the most important area where the CRA has failed to live up to its employer-of-choice model is in the area of staffing and staffing recourse. That is the bad, and in the given time available, that's what I'll focus on.
Under subsection 54(1) of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act, the agency must develop a program governing staffing, including an appointment process and employee recourse when the process goes wrong. The act further states that no collective agreement may deal with staffing.
Unfortunately, the CRA staffing directives fall far short of providing transparency in appointments and do not provide any real recourse. Our experience has exposed a number of problems that I should like to table this afternoon.
From our experience to date, I can say that the CRA has refused to implement some of the findings of the independent third party reviewers, the ITPRs, and indeed denies that reviewers can make binding orders in contravention of its own directives. When an ITPR interprets a directive in a way that expands employees' right, the employer amends the directive to limit that right once again.
I am Michèle Demers. I am the President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and I represent some 10,000 to 10,500 professionals in Canada's Revenue Agency.
Today I am accompanied by Mr. Réal Lamarche, who is the president of the audit group and other professional groups in the agency, as well as Mr. Michel Charette, who is the negotiator for the Professional Institute.
I will be brief, Mr. Chairman. I would just like to share with you the fact that, as president, and as vice-president before 2005, I have heard a cry of distress from both the employees and management of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada regarding the procedures for staffing and recourse.
This agency has awarded itself very high marks in the report it made to you. Now we entirely disagree with it on this point. I agree with Ms. Bannon and John Gordon who say that the most crying need in human resource management that must be satisfied is the whole issue of staffing and recourse.
Let me give the floor to Mr. Lamarche, who will continue our presentation.
My presentation will deal with two specific points: staffing and recourse. Section 54 of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act deals with appointments and the recourse that employees can have. The Professional Institute alleges that the agency did not fulfil this commitment. The agency set up a system that turned out to be a fiasco. This system even compels managers to find other solutions than the current procedure. The agency's selection process is not universal. In the Ottawa region, only 1 per cent of competitions were carried out following the procedures implemented by the agency. This system is a source of frustration.
An internal review by the agency shows that 75 per cent of employees believe that the selection process needs improvement, because it is neither fair nor transparent.
The system should be quicker and more efficient, which is not the case. For instance, let me mention two competitions held in Montreal and Toronto in order to staff the positions that the agency needs. These competitions began 8 or 10 months ago, and no appointments have been made up to now.
The cost of implementing this system is enormous, astronomical. We evaluate it at $50 million.
Now for the recourse part, I'll switch to English.
The Professional Institute is rightfully concerned with the recourse process put in place by the agency. In our view, recourse must be provided in a manner allowing for the cancellation or modification of the staffing action. Any recourse system that has any backbone must be consistent with the principle of natural justice, the most important principle being the right to representation.
Another concern often raised by our members and representatives is the disclosure of information, which occurs inconsistently and on a largely untimely basis.
After six years of our raising issues related to disclosure, we do recognize that CRA has finally agreed to show some opening in principle, which may lead to improved methods for the disclosure of information. Time will tell whether the principle will be followed by an equally open practice. You will understand and pardon our skepticism, given the agency's overall record on recourse.
Our conclusion is that the Professional Institute calls upon Parliament to direct the Canada Revenue Agency to meet its obligations under section 54.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, witnesses.
I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Savage.
My question is relatively easy, and I want to start at the end. If we approve this review, will your ability to negotiate with the agency be hindered? Is there any problem?
Ms. Bannon, you referred to perhaps amending section 54, and I haven't really read it, so I'm not sure. I understand there are growing pains and there have been some problems with CRA when it went from Revenue Canada to become an agency, and then the Canada Border Services Agency was split off. But is that the mechanics, or is that really going to affect us in terms of giving consent for the review to go ahead as is, or for the agency to continue as is?
I guess my question would be to all three groups, Ms. Bannon, Mr. Gordon, and Madame Demers.
It was directed to the alliance, so I'll take this one.
Some of the things that have been centralized are our compensation service delivery, which is our HR; call centres, for collections and forms and information; our warehousing, which has been reduced from about seventeen to two, and that sort of thing.
The compensation centres, for example--and I'll give you some of the problems that go with it--are now at two sites--one is in Ottawa and one is in Winnipeg. If you have a problem with your pay, you have to pick up the phone and talk to somebody either in Winnipeg or Ottawa, when you're in Shawinigan. People do not like having problems with their pay. I'm quite sure you wouldn't be too happy if your paycheque didn't show up or it was short by $400 or there was something wrong with it.
Before they centralized, each office did have compensation service people on site. You could see them and talk about your impending retirement, discuss some of the things you will need to do, how much your pension will be when you leave, and that sort of thing. That is gone. Now you're on the phone and you deal with either Ottawa or Winnipeg.
We were told that we used to have a Cadillac service and they're not prepared to give a Cadillac service to the membership any longer. We're saying the first time your pay gets messed up, we want to be there and we want to see who fixes it. I don't think they'll be calling Ottawa or Winnipeg.
We have fought a lot of these centralizations in the past. The HR section's business is to deliver service to their clients who are our members, and management as well. We are not in favour of the centralization, and we have expressed our displeasure at that. I gave compensation as an example.
Thank you very much, Chair.
And thank you all for your presentations today.
Unless I'm mistaken, I think I can confidently say that for all the words that have been spoken, you need to be congratulated, because you're the first group that's actually come in and made a recommendation to change the bill and act that we're here to review. Unfortunately, it stems from a lot of problems--and I'll get into that.
Ms. Bannon, you did make the general statement, and I'm quoting from your document: “...but I can say that our relationship under the CRA structure is mostly good, and certainly better than when we were a department of the government”.
I assume that to say exactly what it says, that things are better, a lot better than they used to be, and that by and large you at least have a relationship that can work, but you still have some of these huge problems.
I'll pick up on where I think Mr. Dykstra was going on the third party, referring to section 59, which is where they actually ask for that arm's-length review. One of the presentations here--there are three of them together, but if I can treat them as one, whoever appropriately should answer, feel free--made the point that they didn't do the process the way they were supposed to--I believe that's an allegation contained in here--and that rather than randomly selecting employees to interview, you're alleging that managers hand-picked some of the people who went in and did these interviews. That's unless I'm misreading the document.
Maybe I could have an attempt at that.
I'm the executive assistant to the national president, but I am the staffing liaison and the chief consultant for the union in our discussions with the agency.
One of the biggest problems is that without the ability to negotiate, the employer, the CRA, has the unilateral and unfettered right to set the rules. As we go to their stages of recourse—where union representation is not allowed at the first two levels—and we make some inroads, the agency has the unfettered authority, with the stroke of a pen, to change the policy once again. Without the ability to bargain the rules at the table and to have rules we all must live by, or to negotiate those changes, our employees are left with a really futile sense of recourse. They have no real recourse.
In fact, as you'll see in our brief, one thing is that even when we do win before the third party reviewers—who are chosen by the agency themselves, and we are not consulted and have no choice as to whom they pick to hear the cases—and those reviewers find in our favour, the employer has no rules in their own policy that they must follow the findings, the binding recommendations of the reviewers. In fact, we are now, instead of dealing with these before the reviews, spending the time of the Federal Court Trial Division and the Federal Court of Appeal arguing staffing issues of the public service. And we are getting cool receptions in the federal court. They have bigger fish to fry than whether John Smith from Newfoundland or Sylvie Lefebvre from Quebec got an appointment from a PM2 to a PM3. But we're left with no other alternative than to fight our battles in the courts.
On the subject of amending the act, I would like to point out that, were it possible to negotiate staffing and recourse, we would at least be able to sit at the table to raise matters of concern and express the viewpoint of members of the institute. At the moment, no such dialogue occurs. Consultation amounts to sending us a piece of paper, but at the end of the day, the issues are not up for negotiation, and those people do exactly as they please.
We have a specific, more technical recommendation relating to what I call “The grandfather clause”. In 1999, it was formerly recognized that all employees had the necessary skills to do their job. However, the skills profile pertaining to their position was not recognized. If, in 1999 the agency had recognized it, we would not be in this mess. Now, employees are having to again prove that they are qualified for their own job.
With a grandfather clause, the agency would be able to recognize that an employee satisfied the skills profile of his or her job. If somebody wished to seek a promotion, it would be a matter of assessing whether he or she had the relevant skills for the job in question. We made this recommendation in 1999, and have probably repeated it a dozen times a year since then. However, we have no such powers thus far. If the act were amended to allow staffing to be negotiated, we would be able to make headway on such matters and submit allegations.
At the moment, we have no power on matters relating to staffing and recourse decisions. Even managers agree with us that, in the majority of cases, the unwieldy nature of the process prevents them from appointing the best possible candidate. If we were granted certain rights, we would be able to sit at the negotiation table and be heard. I believe that we would be able to suggest constructive measures to fix the current chaos.
In 1999 we advanced the position based on a level of not just seniority, but skills and seniority. If you look at most private sector unions, that's what they have. We were not even advocating a pure seniority, because we do recognize there has to be a level of competence to do the job, and from that the most senior person should be chosen.
I just want to add to Betty's previous comments. I'll give you a quick analogy--and very quick, because I know we're running out of time--to help you understand. There's not just one level of recourse; there are three levels of recourse in the agency.
At 11 o'clock this morning I attended one on a promotion in headquarters. Without getting into names, there was a case where three people were chosen and the person I was representing wasn't chosen for a job. We exercised recourse with the appropriate manager, and the first question we asked was, “What qualifications did you use to appoint them?” The answer we got was, “Additional qualifications linked to work-specific requirements.” We said, “What does that mean?” They said, “Well, we don't really know, but that's what human resources told us to say.” We said, “Can you tell us what qualifications those candidates had that my client didn't have?” “We can't discuss that because that's covered under the Privacy Act; we're not prepared to discuss it.”
When we asked some other questions, the meeting was terminated abruptly, and I was told to speak to human resources. That's recourse in the agency.