Phoenix Pay protestors say federal budget falls short

By Teena Monteleone
February 28, 2018 - 5:00pm

Whether the government scraps the program-plagued Phoenix Pay System or not, federal workers are making demands on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

On Wednesday, members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) gathered outside of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert to protest the unpopular and often-ineffective public employee payment system, which was introduced two years ago.

“We are as frustrated with the costs and problems as the rest of the taxpayers in Canada,” said Shannon Blum, speaking on behalf of PSAC members.

According to a November report from the auditor general, problems with the pay system have grown to the point that the value of outstanding pay errors totalled more than half a billion dollars at the end of June, 2017. Blum said she hasn’t been paid correctly in two years, and was told it could take up to seven years for her situation to be fully resolved.

“I am a single-income household, so it has created hardships. This is the first time I have had to consider getting a second job to pay my mortgage,” she said. “I know one person in my local [union] who didn’t get paid for a year and was still not paid correctly.”



PSAC protestors in Prince Albert demanded more compensation advisors in both the departments and the pay centre to run the system and help members resolve their ongoing pay problems.

“We also don’t think Prime Minister Trudeau should charge our employees a gross amount when they are recovering overpayments, because it's far more than they receive in the first place,” added Blum.

In Tuesday’s budget, the federal government announced it will invest $431.4 million over six years to deal with ongoing issues and hire more payroll support staff for government departments and the Phoenix pay centre in New Brunswick. That is in addition to the $460 million the government already committed to implement the program and fix subsequent problems. The federal government also announced it will eventually move away from the Phoenix program, and will invest $16 million to develop a new pay system over the next two years.  

Protestors said the budget didn’t go far enough to help cover the damage already done. They want financial compensation for the hardships the program caused workers, including stress and the lost time spent dealing with their pay problems.

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, who joined the protest in support, agreed there needs to be compensation.

“Some have had to sell land or other stuff to survive because they weren’t getting paid,” Dionne said. “I am amazed our province and other provinces haven’t gotten on board to give the government some heat, because they are breaking labour laws. You have to pay your employees.”

While the protesters welcomed the news of a move away from the problem plagued Phoenix pay system, Blum said a new system won't help those who are struggling today.

“It doesn’t change the fact there are 200,000 employees who need to get paid correctly…and get paid now.”


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