Majority of readers have personally experienced federal pay problems affecting over 80,000 of Canada’s public servants

By on 25/07/2016

Almost three quarters of Canadian Global Government Forum readers have personally experienced problems with receiving their federal pay, as the government of Canada has admitted that more than 80,000 public servants have been affected by payroll issues.

Since Public Services and Procurement Canada introduced the new Phoenix pay system in February, thousands of public servants have reported problems with receiving their wages.

And last week, Marie Lemay, the civil servant leading the department, said that her team was currently working through a backlog of about 80,000 employees “where they are receiving regular pay, but are missing supplementary pay, such as acting or extra duty pay, and salary increment adjustments”; around 1,100 officials who are experiencing problems receiving “maternity or parental payments, long-term disability, severance payments or requests for records of employment”; and 720 employees who reported not having been paid in the previous week.

Her message came after 72% (1,155 votes) of Canadian GGF readers who took part in an online poll answered ‘yes’ to the question: ‘Have you personally experienced problems receiving your pay?’, compared to 28% (456 votes) who said ‘no’.

Amidst the mounting problems, Lemay urged public servants to report any issues as quickly as possible: “It is important that anyone not being paid contact us immediately so we can help as quickly as possible.

“If an employee’s paperwork has not been submitted to our Pay Centre on time, our compensation advisors may not know that person is missing a pay.

“Reporting these problems quickly is key, and the best way to do that is through our online feedback form, available on the main page of our website.

“It’s also important for employees to speak with their manager as soon as they notice an issue with their pay to discuss next steps and the resources available within their department to help them resolve the issue or obtain emergency financial assistance, if needed.”

Employees can use the feedback form to request emergency salary advances, she said, adding that “no employee should go unpaid when each department and agency can issue an emergency salary advance within a few days of a request.”

Lemay also responded to reports of privacy breaches with the new system.

She confirmed the breaches with the first occuring between March and July 2015, and said that both cases were reported to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the ongoing problem with the Phoenix pay system as “unacceptable” during an interview on Wednesday with Radio-Canada’s François Cormier and Martine Defoy.

“We inherited the system from the previous government,” he added, echoing previous words from Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, who told CBC News the Liberals “inherited a mess from the Harper government,” which “let the system deteriorate.”

While the new system was spearheaded under the previous Conservative government, it rolled out in phases under the Trudeau government’s watch earlier this year in spite of a warning from the largest union representing federal public servants.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said thousands of its members experienced problems during the first phase of the rollout, which began in late February, and in April the union warned the Liberals not to move ahead with the second phase.

At the time, the government responded that only 300 people had made formal complaints, and that “almost all” of the technical issues had been resolved.

PSAC, Canada’s largest public sector union, announced earlier this month that it teamed up with more than a dozen unions to file a notice of application in Federal Court to force the federal government to pay its employees properly and on time.

PWGSC started rolling out Phoenix, a new consolidated pay system, across departments in February this year.

Phoenix, run from the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, south-east Canada, it said, would be up and running in more than 100 departments by April and save the government more than $50m a year by streamlining services, reducing printing costs and speeding up the process.

However, since its introduction, more and more civil servants complained about not being paid with some not having received pay cheques for months, prompting the unions to seek a court order directing the government to implement a pay administration system that meets its obligations under the Financial Administration Act and the Directive on Terms and Conditions of Employment.

PSAC also encouraged civil servants to set out their problems in writing to Judy Foote, the minister of public services and procurement, who has already received more than 2,000 letters of complaint.

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See also:

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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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