Canada launches new drive to clear Phoenix pay back-log

By on 14/05/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The Public Services Pay Centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick, where the ‘Pay Pods’ pilot programme was first announced (Image courtesy: Public Services and Procurement Canada).

A pilot programme that has hastened clearance of the civil service pay back-logs caused by the ill-fated Phoenix system is to be rolled out across all Canadian federal government departments.

The move was announced by public services and procurement minister Carla Qualtrough at the official opening earlier this month of the CAN$85m (US$67m) Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, New Brunswick, which was set up to administer Phoenix.

The ‘Pay Pods’ pilot programme, which was developed by staff at the centre, involves groups of officials being assigned to a specific department or agency and working together on individual employees’ pay files to solve all outstanding issues.

Bring it all together

Previously, officers dealt with pay issues by transaction type, so employees could be faced with multiple, simultaneous interactions with officials who had been assigned to different types of pay issue.

The pilot project, which was launched in December, involved three departments: Veteran Affairs Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.

“Through innovation and continual improvement, we are working to stabilise the pay system and ensure that employees are paid accurately,” said Qualtrough. “We feel confident that the Pod approach will provide more tailored support to departments and agencies and help address employee pay issues as quickly as possible.”

Quicker clean-up

Carla Qualtrough, minister of public services and procurement in the Canadian federal government (Image courtesy: EronMain).

Since the pilot began, the overall pay back-log for the three departments has been cut by 24% and the number of employees with pay issues has fallen by 11%, said Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) in a statement.

The phased roll-out of the Pay Pods model to 45 departments and agencies that together employ 200,000 employees will start this month and will be fully implemented by mid-2019, PSPC said.

The next phase involves 12 departments and agencies that together employ more than 32,000 employees. Among these are Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Canada School of Public Service, the Canadian Dairy Commission and the Canadian Grain Commission.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Finance Canada, Justice Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Public Prosecution of Canada and the Treasury Board Secretariat are also included.

Killer hangover

The Phoenix pay system was meant to save the taxpayer CAN$70m (US$55m) per year but, by March this year, the catalogue of pay problems that it generated had racked up additional costs of more than CAN$900 million (US$705m).

A Public Service Pay Centre ‘dashboard’ on the PSPC website shows that on 2 May, there were 607,000 pay transactions awaiting processing at Miramichi, including 372,000 transactions beyond the normal workload.

“While the exact number fluctuates daily, it is estimated that more than half of public servants are experiencing some form of pay issue,” the dashboard states.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London. She worked on daily newspapers for more than 16 years as an education correspondent, section editor and general news reporter. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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