Federal employees in B.C. rally against Phoenix pay system

Federal government employees in B.C. took to the streets Wednesday to protest the troubled Phoenix pay system.

Union members in Victoria, Kelowna share stories of hardship

A man in Victoria holds up a sign reading "Burnt by Phoenix" at a rally against the pay system that has created pay problems for federal workers for two years. (CBC)

Federal government employees in B.C. took to the streets Wednesday to protest the troubled Phoenix Pay System.

In Victoria, more than 100 of them voiced their frustration on a downtown street, many waving signs that said: "Burnt by Phoenix."

Phoenix has been riddled with glitches affecting the pay of more than 100,000 government workers who have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all over the past two years.

In Tuesday's federal budget, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the government would scrap the system despite spending nearly $1 billion to fix it.

"It would be a relief," said Adele McLean, president of the Victoria branch of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, a union representing federal workers.

"I will believe it when I see it. I'm sure most members feel the same way."

Millions to fix problems

McLean says until Phoenix is replaced — or fixed for good — she and thousands of other federal employees will be left to worry each payday.

One of those employees is Suzanne Medgyes who claims she had to take a second job to cover her rent after she wasn't paid for three months.

Protesters hold signs at a rally in Kelowna Wednesday, protesting the Phoenix Pay System. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

"At least I knew I was going to get a paycheck from the second job, but it was really difficult," she said.

Tuesday's budget included $431 million to address continuing problems but also pencilled in $16 million to begin the process of replacing the pay system.

It's a move union leaders like McLean have long called for.

Frustrations grow, morale shrinks

Another protest was held in Kelowna, echoing the frustrations of federal employees in that city.

Sue Moser, local president of the Union of Taxation Employees, told Radio West host Sarah Penton that her members have been hurt deeply by the problems.

"I've had one young mum who came back from maternity leave, and when she eventually started getting paid again, realized that the government thought they had overpaid her by about $16,000," Moser said.

The woman did not receive this money, Moser said, yet the government still clawed it back, leaving her short $16,000. "It's been over a year and it still hasn't been corrected," Moser said.

"She's very frustrated."

Sue Moser is the local president of the Union of Taxation Employees in Kelowna. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

Moser says the pay interruptions cause uncertainty and morale issues for federal employees.

She says she will be glad to see Phoenix go but said delays in replacing it would be unacceptable.

With files from Megan Thomas and CBC Radio One's Radio West