The Public Service Alliance of Canada and another dozen unions agreed to put their lawsuit against the federal government over the Phoenix payroll fiasco on hold in exchange for more "information sharing and communication" from the government, according to a consent order approved by Federal Court on Dec. 22.

The unions, which represent federal government workers, launched legal action against the Treasury Board earlier this year in hopes of forcing the federal government to pay its employees properly and on time.

Since moving to the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system in early 2016, tens of thousands of workers have been short-changed or not paid at all. Some have even been overpaid, causing confusion about how they should pay that money back. 

But just before Christmas, the unions and the government agreed to a list of conditions, approved by the Federal Court, that will see the Phoenix experts share more information and expertise with the newly resurrected Union Management Consultation Committee. 

Unions to have access to experts

The agreement calls for the government "to resolve the pay administration issues that have arisen following the implementation of Phoenix." The new union committee is also free to "release reports and share information as it determines necessary for public distribution."

The government can still give technical briefings and updates to the public. It must also make Phoenix experts available to the committee as the group works to help resolve the payroll issues.

According to the consent order, the government will continue to have a dedicated team of advisors as long as there are still payroll problems, and keep satellite pay officers and call centres open to handle Phoenix issues.

The order made particular mention of workers beginning disability, maternity or parental leave. Workers who changed their pay status often ended up with problems in getting paid. The consent order said these folks will not be denied "emergency replacement pay services" or "priority pay" because they are on leave.

The unions still have the option of resuming court action if they are not satisfied with the government's progress on the issue.

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