Thousands of Canadian civil servants report problems with federal pay

By on 12/07/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020

Almost 2,000 civil servants employed by the government of Canada reported issues regarding their pay within less than a week, as the federal payroll crisis deepens.

Public Services and Procurement Canada, formerly referred to as Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) – the department responsible for the government’s internal servicing and administration, started to promote its new online form for officials experiencing issues with their wages on Wednesday, 29 June.

Federal payment problems have been on-going since the introduction of the new Phoenix pay system in February this year with many civil servants not having received their wages for months.

By Monday, 4 July, a total of 1,710 employees had reported problems.

PWGSC is working to “analyse these [reports] and provide help as quickly as possible,” the department’s most senior civil servant said on Friday.

In a message to public servants, deputy minister Marie Lemay also said that the information received through the feedback form means that PWGSC now has a “more detailed picture of pay issues” and “can better assess causes and work more quickly towards solutions.”

One of the major challenges for PWGSC, Lemay said, is a backlog of requests for pay, such as overtime or acting, which is being addressed by some 41 temporary employees hired to help combat the pay crisis.

The temporary staff are currently operating from a temporary pay unit in Gatineau and the plan is to “have 100 staff members working in the unit as quickly as possible,” she said.

Lemay said the schedule to eliminate the backlog is “being finalised and will be shared shortly to provide timelines for when requests will be completed.”

While her message stopped short of an apology, Lemay thanked public servants for their “continued patience and understanding” and added that her department is “working very hard to resolve pay issues as quickly as possible” and understands “that this situation is challenging and frustrating.”

She said: “We are committed to ensuring that all public servants are paid promptly and properly.”

Progress, she added “is underway” and promised “regular updates” going forward.

Her message was published days after the Public Service Alliance Canada (PSAC), Canada’s largest public sector union, announced 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.


  1. Blaine says:

    I sure hope something gets done, they say it will save them money but now the employees are on the phone or doing all the extra work and not doing their regular work so there are no real savings, plus the old system was working just fine.

  2. Cathy says:

    I really hope the backlog will be quick. I am one of the people who have not received pay checks for months. I am really curious to see how fast this new temporary pay unit will work and how efficient they’ll be! I am putting all of my hope in them. I am happy that we have more updated though. It is true the old system was working better. Let’s see how Phoenix will change in the future !

  3. John says:

    I was a part-time employee, who became a full-time employee for the summer. However, I was still receiving my part-time salary for the first month. They fixed the issue, but they never paid me the amount they missed in the month

  4. anonymous says:

    You also have to consider the enormous of time the employees are spending looking verifying the application. This is a waste of government time. What the article is neglecting to mention is that besides the 2000 not getting paid an enormous amount of staff have other various issues. Why would one government department spend millions on an application that does not work when the previous one worked very well

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