New Brunswick

Phoenix failure prompts pay centre protest by correctional officers

New Brunswick members of the Union of Canadian Correction Officers, or UCCO, were bussed to Miramichi Thursday afternoon for a demonstration showing their frustration with the federal Phoenix pay-system. "We're here to send a message to the minister regarding the pay of our federal public service employees, and correctional officers are obviously affected by that"

Members of the Union of Canadian Correction Officers in New Brunswick fed up with Phoenix pay system

Federal workers demonstrate outside the Miramichi Public Service Pay Centre in New Brunswick. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Federal correctional officers working in New Brunswick showed their frustration with the federal government's Phoenix pay system by staging a demonstration outside the Miramichi Pay Centre.

"We're here to send a message to the minister regarding the pay of our federal public service employees, and correctional officers are obviously affected by that.," said Jason Godin, national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

Union of Canadian Correctional Officers president Jason Godin holds a badge worn by union members across the country in solidarity with pay centre workers, and demanding federal workers be paid. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"We have many of our members who are affected with all kinds of pay issues across the country, and we're kind of sitting back saying I told you so."

Correction officers from federal prisons in Dorchester and Renous were bused to Miramichi. They held handmade signs stating "Help them help us,"  "Fix Phoenix," "More staff =Problem solved," and  "Pay me now."

While correction officers and their union are desperate to be paid and to have the Phoenix system permanently fixed, they don't blame the workers at the Miramichi Pay Centre.

Miramichi workers not blamed

Some estimates put the number of employees on long-term, stress-related leave in the centre at 50 of 590 workers.

"I think these workers are doing everything they can with limited resources," said Godin

You need to add more workers to make sure federal public service employees get paid.- Jason Godin, UCCO national president
Jeff Wilkins, UCCO regional president, says he is "absolutely not confident" that Phoenix pay-system issues will be resolved by the October 31 deadline. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)
"We're also here to send a message to the government that you need to support the workers that are here," he said. "You need to train them properly. At the same time you need to add more workers to make sure federal public service employees get paid."

Many correctional officers returning from sick leave, or parental leave have been forced to draw on emergency payment because of issues with the Phoenix pay system.

"Regularly you're scheduled to be paid on a specific payday and sometimes payments are missed. Sometimes interest is accrued through their banks, and sometimes they're missing payments," said Jeff Wilkins, Atlantic regional president of the union.

Fix promised by Oct. 31

Though the federal government has promised to fix issues with the pay system by Oct. 31, the pledge has drawn criticism from the Government Services Union. and the correctional officers'  union agrees.

"I am absolutely not confident that it's going to work," said Wilkins.

For the union, the message is simple.

"Pay us. Work performed means we get paid. Simple as that," said Godin. "We told them this was coming, we warned them."

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