YOU WORK. YOU GET PAID. SIMPLE. NOT FOR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Thousands upon thousands of federal government workers have been paid too much, too little, too late, or not at all since February 2016. The stories of the disruption and damage to their lives go on and on.
Here are a few samples.
From a worker at the Department of National Defence
“My husband had to sell his retirement investments to get us through six months of me not getting paid. The financial toll is nothing compared to the emotional toll all of this has taken: the many nights I have laid awake thinking of the hours of phone calls I would have to make talking to the pay centre, or the lunch hours spent at my desk for fear of missing a call back that would never come, or the time I have spent figuring out the math and where my pay has been screwed up.
Too sick to carry on
From a worker at Parks Canada
“My pay issues started in June 2016 when I went off work for emergency surgery. Unfortunately, going off work resulted in multiple over payments, which I dutifully reported to my manager and the pay centre. I thought it would all be easily sorted out when I returned to work in February 2017. Instead I did not get paid for 2 months, my overpayment amounts were incorrect and my T4 was incorrect. After 4 months of struggling each and every day with pay-related stress I made the difficult decision to stop working.
This is a nightmare
From a worker at Public Services and Procurement Canada
“Last summer, after a maternity leave, I had to obtain emergency salary advances totaling $9,000 because I was not paid for 3 months. When I finally did get paid, in August, I thought it was the end of the story. In December, the government started to recoup the advances—which is fair enough. Unfortunately, it turned out the pay center had miscalculated all the amounts and now I have no idea if the government owes me money or if I still owe the government money. This is a nightmare.
But, I already paid
From a worker at Service Canada
“I went on leave without pay in August 2016, Phoenix continued to pay me despite repeated requests sent by my manager to stop paying me. I went back to work in February 2017 Phoenix issued me a notice of overpayment. I paid back the full outstanding amount. However, as of June 2017, I have not received a single cent of pay from my new job. The pay owed to me is still being deducted as a recovery of overpayment, despite the fact I paid back the outstanding amount already.”
Other screw ups due to the flawed pay system include:
- denying students access to their inheritance
- forcing at least one student to quit university
- failing to provide pension statements
- mortgage defaults and house foreclosures
- failure to pay parental leave
- failure to pay disability payments.
Stiffing Peter to pay Paul
Telling horror stories about how bad the situation is for federal workers is necessary—but it won’t fix anything. What would fix things is a clear path to a permanent solution. Such a path does not seem any nearer now than it was in February 2016. In fact, things just keep getting worse.
For example, while the number of problem files dropped to 228,000 by late July, it began to rise again over the next four weeks. Government officials were quick to finger unions for the rise.
Government officials blamed the increase on the need to shift pay system employees away from handling problems to handling pay changes in keeping with the ratification of 27 big public service contracts, with legislated timelines.
“To meet these timelines, we dedicated a number of compensation advisers to work almost exclusively on these payments,” the department said. “This shifting of resources affected our ability to reduce the number of pay transactions at the Public Service Pay Centre.”
The department said it expected the situation to continue through the fall, suggesting the backlog could get worse before it gets better.
Just fix it
Phoenix fatigue is setting in. Who to blame for the installation of this shambles of a pay system can wait. Paying workers what they earned cannot.
What is needed most now is a final fix. PSAC and other unions representing federal public service workers continue to work together to drive the government to find it soon.
“We have met with the representatives of the other unions and we all agree that we need to have a common front on this,” said Robyn Benson, PSAC National President. “It has been 18 months and this mess still isn’t fixed; meanwhile, many of our members are struggling to make ends meet. This is unacceptable.”
When you’re up to your ass in alligators...
The Harper government selected IBM in 2011 to build them a pay system that would be used for more than 100 government departments and dozens of collective bargaining agreements. IBM was to be paid $5.7 million for their services—an amount that has now ballooned 32 times to $185 million.
Phoenix was expected to save us millions of dollars and streamline transactions to increase efficiency.
The Trudeau government estimates that fixing the Phoenix problems and eliminating the backlog could cost us $400-million over at least two years—more than the $307 million we have already paid for a ludicrously faulty system.
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• CBC Report: Phoenix by the numbers