Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing federal workers impacted by the Phoenix Pay system, rally out front of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Aug. 23. Members are demanding an end to the ongoing payroll issues that have plagued the federal government and its unionized workers. (CHRIS BUSH/NEWS BULLETIN)

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the union representing federal workers impacted by the Phoenix Pay system, rally out front of the Vancouver Island Conference Centre in Nanaimo on Aug. 23. Members are demanding an end to the ongoing payroll issues that have plagued the federal government and its unionized workers. (CHRIS BUSH/NEWS BULLETIN)

Employees doubtful new system will fix current payroll issues quickly

Public service union says hundreds of Vancouver Island workers have had problems with Phoenix Pay

The regional vice-president of a union representing hundreds of federal employees in Nanaimo is pleased with the Liberals’ recent announcement regarding a possible new payment system, but remains doubtful that issues surrounding the Phoenix Pay system will be resolved any time soon.

Jamey Mills, Public Service Alliance of Canada regional executive vice-president for B.C., told the News Bulletin that there are hundreds of his members from the Nanaimo region who have been impacted in some capacity by the Phoenix Pay system’s failures and that while the government’s latest announcement is nice, it isn’t entirely reassuring.

“I am not optimistic that this will be resolved within 12 months,” Mills said.

His comments come after Scott Brison, president of the treasury board and federal government’s minister of digital government, told reporters yesterday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre that while the government is working towards “stabilizing” the Phoenix Pay system, they are also exploring new software through a procurement process.

“We will be working, again, with public servants, with the unions representing them, with the vendor community, to do a modern, agile sandbox procurement that will actually see working prototypes put in the hands of public servants, where we actually test proof of concept,” Brison said, without providing a timeline on when a new system could be in place because the government doesn’t want to “rush” the process.

However, Carla Qualtrough, public services minister, told reporters yesterday that government is confident that a “state of the art system” will be in place next year.

The Phoenix Pay system – a centralized payment software system – came in under the Conservative government, which was seeking to replace an existing system that was years old at the time, according to the CBC. The system, based out of New Brunswick, was first rolled out in February 2016 with an estimated cost of nearly $300 million and has since been plagued with problems.

Mills, whose union members protested in Nanaimo on Wednesday, said the Phoenix Pay system has been awful and that he hopes the Liberals follow through and actually listen to union reps and its members.

“We are obviously quite happy that the government is moving forward with some sort of new pay system that will finally pay public servants correctly and on time. At the same, hopefully, it will be easier and better to use for the members that process the pay,” Mills said. “We hope the government follows through on their commitment to have meaningful consultation, not just during the procurement, but during the development of the new system. We feel that was definitely one of the shortcomings of not just the current government, but the prior government as well. They didn’t consult with the union, they didn’t consult with the operators and they didn’t consult with the end users prior to flipping the switch.”

Thousands of federal government employees, excluding members of the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces, have been directly impacted by the Phoenix Pay system’s issues. Mills said in some cases workers aren’t getting paid at all, others are being paid too little, while many others aren’t getting overtime or danger pay, adding that there are also cases of people being grossly overpaid.

“I know of instances of people getting a $35,000 payment into their account. It’s that bad,” Mills said, adding that “basically anything that could go wrong with your pay has gone wrong” for thousands of federal workers.

While employees who aren’t getting paid can request an emergency salary advance immediately, Mills said it’s only two-thirds of their actual paycheque.

“The problem with that has been on the next paycheque the system will go to recover the emergency salary advance, but it will dock the whole paycheque in error,” he said. “It’s just this vicious cycle of issues.”

Mills said the Phoenix Pay system’s failures have resulted in recruitment issues for departments with people hesitant to advance their careers within the government because they’re not being paid on time or at all. He said his union has been calling for a national inquiry into the matter, that the Liberals promised to fix the issue a year ago and haven’t and that a national inquiry is needed.

“We want to know what happened and we want to prevent it from happening again,” he said.




nicholas.pescod@nanaimobulletin.com 
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram