Dozens of frustrated federal workers chanted slogans and waved flags during a short demonstration Thursday against the problem-ridden Phoenix payroll system used by the federal government.

Jeannie Baldwin, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, slammed the Phoenix payroll as "plagued."

"Can you imagine 80,000 pay requests every month for payroll changes? This system does not work," Baldwin told the crowd of about 50 protesters outside the Topsail Road office of St. John's South–Mount Pearl MP Seamus O'Regan.

Jeannie Baldwin

Jeannie Baldwin, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, tells a crowd of protesters that the Phoenix pay system needs to be fixed. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"When you don't get a paycheque, when you don't receive any money whatsoever from this federal government for the work that you do, or you're unpaid, or you're not paid correctly, this tells you that this system does not work, brothers and sisters, and we need it fixed."

Unpaid bills, utilities cut

Bill Ryan, president of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees Local 90915 and a leading seaman with the Canadian Coast Guard, said he's had several periods of incorrect or no pay, from a system he called "disgraceful."

"I represent members that come home from sea, and the lights are off at their house because their bills weren't paid," he said. "They have automatic payments and it didn't come out at the bank."

Bill Ryan on Phoenix pay system

Bill Ryan of the Canadian Coast Guard says members of his union have come home to dark houses because automatic bill payments couldn't be made after paycheques weren't deposited. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Ryan said he's been told the Phoenix pay centre has difficulty with various codes for different pay levels, such as when someone is paid differently for a job they're doing temporarily.

"There's some people have been acting, and they receive just their acting pay and they don't get their regular pay," he said. "I've had several periods of acting pay where I just receive my regular and have been waiting forever on acting pay."

In May, one pay period was skipped entirely, he said, a problem that wasn't resolved until Wednesday. The Phoenix system has caused headaches for workers since its implementation in February 2016.

"There doesn't seem to be any end in sight for us," Ryan said.

Lola Parsons

Lola Parsons says employees at the Canada Revenue Agency office where she works are under financial strain because of ongoing problems with the federal payroll system. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Lola Parsons, who works for the Canada Revenue Agency, says everyone from students to long-term employees have been affected.

"Everyone's under financial stress and it's hard to perfrom the duties of your job when you have financial stress on your mind," she said.

'Top priority,' says Liberal MP

O'Regan, who is currently in Ottawa, later tweeted a video that said the Liberal government was "set up to fail" with the system, which was initiated by the previous Conservative administration, but acknowledged that was a year and a half ago.

"It is up to us to find a fix and can't go pointing fingers any longer," said O'Regan, who went on to outline steps the government is taking.

"We have made this a top priority, we are attempting to get to the bottom of it, and we won't stop until each and every one of the public employees in my riding and many ridings across the country are paid for the work that they do," he said.

With files from Peggy Lam