A coast guard worker says tax time is stressful for public service employees who've been complaining about the problematic Phoenix payroll system for months.
"It is a mess, it's terrible," Bill Ryan said in an interview with The St. John's Morning Show. Ryan is also president of Local 90915 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
"When you look at the emphasis on mental health in the workplace … I tell you, it's not easy not getting paid, and not knowing when you're going to get paid and not knowing if you're going to get paid next time."
Since the pay system was introduced last February, more than 80,000 public servants have experienced issues with pay — about 30 per cent of the federal government's workforce.
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Ryan said he's been both overpaid and underpaid. And while he's able to request salary advances — what he refers to as priority payments — there are issues with that process as well.
"I was at sea when I realized I hadn't been paid. Our internet system is terribly slow aboard ship and I couldn't download the forms to send back. I had to wait until I came in which delayed us even further," he said.
'I've been several pay periods not getting paid.' - Bill Ryan
And according to Ryan, government has been recouping those advances in full — leaving some employees without wages for months.
"They're not supposed to take back any more than 10 per cent of your pay [to repay an advance] … and they're supposed to work that out with you to make sure you can afford that much," Ryan said.
"That hasn't been the case for me at all. When I was overpaid, they were taking back 100 per cent. In my case, I've been several pay periods not getting paid."
According to Ryan, even the information listed on his recent T4 tax slip is incorrect.
Ryan doesn't believe the federal government has the number of payment problems down to 8,000 civil servants.
"Absolutely bogus," he said. "That might be under 10,000 from when they started looking at it … but every pay period, it increases."
One colleague, he said, has been out of work since last June but, because they haven't been laid off, they're unable to apply for unemployment insurance.
'We don't get paid enough to go without pay.' - Bill Ryan
Another, he said, went on maternity leave last May but waited until January to receive benefits, including back pay.
"We don't get paid enough to go without pay. When you've got someone taking home 600 bucks a week, you can't afford to go without that pay. You've hardly got enough to scrape along. We're working on ratifying an agreement," he said.
"We're not going to work to get sympathy. We go to work and we provide valuable service.
"Everything from search and rescue to the people who send out the pension cheques, letting people in and out of the country — the border guards — the whole works, and we're not being appreciated," he said.
"You're going to work to get paid and feed your family, keep the lights on. And it's not easy when you don't know what's coming next."