author: derek cameron | news writer
Over 80,000 government employees with issues in pay
Harper’s legacy has been seen as negative by about “75 per cent of Canadians,” according to a recent EKOS poll. His legacy has again reared its head in the Phoenix Pay debacle that has negatively affected “80,000 government employees,” according to government officials.
In 2009, Harper announced an update to the federal pay system, “Phoenix Pay,” which was supposed to consolidate the previous system into a single centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
In June 2015, the Miramichi centre was in charge of 72,000 government payroll files and was swamped with complaints. At the time, Chris Aylward of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest union of public servants, said, “We believe that it was simply too soon, too fast, you know, bringing in too many accounts and not allowing the employees there the opportunity basically to make sure that they have the resources and the support in place to do the job properly.”
In Feb. 2016, after Trudeau took office, the system gained an additional 120,000 payroll files. At the time, the pay system was heralded a success.
By April, reports of problems were making headlines; employees were having issues with Phoenix.
Aylward said, “They’re simply not getting paid. They’re not getting paid on time. They’re not getting paid accurately.”
Now, over the summer, it has become apparent that most of the affected workers are students and other short-term workers. Some students have had to live on credit cards because they have not been paid since the start of summer. About 720 employees – most students or short-term workers – have not received pay since the start of summer, many more have been underpaid or overpaid.
Colin Barnard, a government employee, says, “I’ve had to dip into my RRSPs twice already, and that doesn’t make me happy, because that’s supposed to be for my retirement. You know it’s not a fun thing to have going on.” He says he hasn’t been receiving pay since February, when his account was transferred to Phoenix Pay.
Last week, federal officials apologized to the “nearly 80,000 employees” affected by the Phoenix Pay System and promised to work around the clock to resolve issues. To help process the payroll files, the government has hired temporary specialists. Marie Lemay, deputy minister for Public Services and Procurement, called the situation “absolutely unacceptable.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said the government “inherited the system from the previous government, which let the system deteriorate.”
Aylward disputes this, noting that Phoenix Pay gained a majority of payroll files under the Trudeau government’s watch earlier this year in spite of warnings from his union.
On Monday, the Liberals caved to demands for an emergency meeting on the system. Public employees and public officials will be brought before the government operations and estimates committee to determine a path forward.
In the meantime, students working for the government should pay close attention for any irregularities in their pay, if they receive it.