Federal employees protest at MP's office over Phoenix pay issues

About a dozen unionized federal employees gathered in front of a Winnipeg MP's office on Wednesday to demand an update on why they have yet to be paid their wages.
Lauren Davenport was among the demonstrators who turned up at South Centre MP Jim Carr's constituency office on Wednesday. She retired 14 months ago but says she still hasn't received her severance pay. (CBC )

About a dozen federal employees gathered in front of a Winnipeg MP's office on Wednesday to demand an update on why they have yet to be paid their wages.

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada staged the protest in the rain on Wednesday in front of Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr's constitiuency office, saying they want a concrete update on the problems plaguing the government's Phoenix pay system.

"We came to Minister Jim Carr's office to ask him questions since he's the minister in charge of the public service and procurement and we know that he sits with other MPs as well, on the committee that is supposed to be fixing Phoenix," Gus Mardli, union rep for PSAC, told CBC News. 

"So Phoenix's problems [have been going on for] longer than a year and a half," Mardli said. "We have members who have been affected — not getting paid, returning to work from maternity leave and they have no money. They're not getting paid. 

"I know about myself. If I don't get one paycheque I'll be in trouble. I don't know how the MPs who are sitting, what they would do if they didn't get paid."

The former federal government brought in the new pay system as a way to standardize how federal employees are paid across the country. However, the system has been plagued with problems, leaving tens of thousands without pay, mistakes in their pay or mistakes in their benefits, sometimes for months or longer.

According to numbers released in July by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), its pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., processed 89,000 cases between June 29 and July 26.

However, the pay centre also received 71,000 new cases during that period — so the net reduction of cases related to the civil servant pay system was only about 18,000.

That means that as of July 26, there were still roughly 228,000 outstanding Phoenix cases requiring resolution, PSPC said in its update. The government has estimated it will cost more than $400 million to fix the troubled pay system.

Lauren Davenport said she has been waiting for owed money for more than a year.

"I retired in June of 2016 and I'm still awaiting my severance pay, which is 14-15 months after the fact," she said. 

"I haven't heard anything one way or another, when I might expect it, or do I have to put something in my will? You don't get any feedback other than they'll put a note in your file. It's very frustrating."

Protesters said they were told Carr was in Ottawa and unavailable to talk with them today. However, Mardli said, they have made an appointment to talk with the minister.