British Columbia

Federal workers rally across B.C. over Phoenix pay system

Dozens of public servants across B.C. protested Wednesday against the ongoing woes with the Phoenix pay system.

Prince Rupert, B.C. woman says the government is asking her for $20,000 more than she owes in overpayment

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada's B.C. chapter hold signs at a protest in Vancouver. (Public Service Alliance of Canada)

Dozens of public servants across B.C. protested Wednesday against the ongoing woes with the Phoenix pay system.

Members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada's B.C. chapter rallied in Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Chilliwack and Prince Rupert. 

The union represents about 180,000 workers nationally. 

In Prince Rupert, a handful of protesters stood outside MP Nathan Cullen's office, holding signs that read "Burnt by Phoenix." 

"For the past two years, I actually do not know of a single public servant that has been paid correctly," said Coral Keehn, who has worked for the federal government for 12 years. 

"Typically on any given pay day, it's like a big mystery to what your paycheque is actually going to read." 

Coral Keehn, left, said it's been difficult for her to make her mortgage payments with the payroll snafus. (George Baker/CBC)

Ongoing pay crisis

The Phoenix pay system has wreaked havoc on tens of thousands of federal workers since launching in February 2016. 

As of August 2017, more than 156,000 public servants have opened a file seeking redress for a pay issue.

Keehn, a single mother of two kids, said the government overpaid her substantially, but is now asking her for $20,000 more than what she actually owes. Right now, the governent is deducting money from her paycheque until she pays off the amount.

She said she has yet to get a hold of any staffer to address the issue. 

"It's like trying to break into Fort Knox," she said. 

Sending money back isn't easy, she said. Keehn received no guarantee that her return would be acknowledged and was told she wouldn't get a receipt.

"It basically disappears and you have no record of it having gone back into payroll." 

'We're the bottom ranks'

As a result of the overpayment, Keehn said she filed an incorrect tax return. She knew it was incorrect, so she refused to sign it.

"I submitted it on paper in order to include the note to say that this return was incorrect," she said. "I knew for fact that it was fraudulent. They processed it anyway."

Keehn said workers have been weary of speaking out. 

"We are not the same people that receive the bonuses and the big pension in the upper echelons of the government," she said.

"We're the bottom ranks and we're the ones getting most grossly affected by this." 

In an updated mandate letter earlier this month, the prime minister said fixing the pay of the public servants is a top priority for Minister of Public Services and Procurement Carla Qualtrough. 

"You will help ensure the pay system is stabilized and able to perform within service standards," the letter said. 


With files from George Baker and CBC's Daybreak North

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