After 10 weeks without a paycheque, a Cape Breton woman says she's draining her savings and is demoralized as Christmas approaches and the federal government continues to struggle with its payroll system.
Since the Phoenix payroll system was rolled out in February, more than 80,000 public servants have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all. The government had pledged to fix the problem by the end of October, but has missed its self-imposed deadline.
"My husband and I have maxed our credit cards, essentially, we've taken out any savings that we had," said the federal government employee, who asked not to be identified for fear she will be disciplined by her employer.
She said she's not been paid since Sept. 22.
"We weren't prepared to go for several months without my income and I'm the main earner in my household. It's been extremely stressful."
'We're living on credit'
She said she and others are now at the mercy of the speed with which the large backload of pay issues are solved.
"We've basically depleted our savings and now we're living on credit, which is not an ideal way to be functioning."
The bureaucrat who had been in charge of Phoenix, Rosanna Di Paola, said in September the system isn't to blame for the backlog, but rather incorrectly entered information and processing times slower than expected.
On Friday, the deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement, Marie Lamey, released a statement that said 15,000 employee cases remained in backlog and have some form of outstanding pay transaction.
"To date, we have closed pay transactions for over 83 per cent of the employees in our backlog," she said.
'It's pretty demoralizing'
The employee in Cape Breton is not one of them. She's still waiting, and continues to go to a job every day without being paid.
"It's pretty demoralizing, I don't know too many people that keep going to work without receiving any remuneration," she said. "We're of course expected to go to work, even though we're not actually getting a paycheque."
She said it's tough to just cover the financial basics, such as mortgage, daycare and food. And now with Christmas on the horizon, there's extra pressure.
"That's been causing anxiety in our household because obviously we want to have a nice Christmas holiday," she said. "I normally support local charities and local businesses, but that's not at all possible this year. We're just trying to get by and make sure that the people in our lives have a couple of things to open under the tree."
No one from Public Services Canada was available for comment Monday.
A media spokesperson sent a statement that said: "The ongoing public service pay problems are completely unacceptable and we continue to work tirelessly to help each and every employee experiencing a problem with his or her pay."
But the Cape Breton federal employee said her frustration is exacerbated by a lack of answers for when she can expect to see her pay return to normal. She said she's been told that she might resume later in December, but there's nothing definite.
And also there are no projections on when she'd see the pay she's owed for the last 10 weeks.
"It's very frustrating. I can't get any information whatsoever on when I'll be receiving that."