New Brunswick

Miramichi Pay Centre gets visit from federal minister Judy Foote

Public Services Minister Judy Foote will be in Miramichi today to meet with Pay Centre employees, who are struggling to deal with the botched Phoenix payroll system that has left 80,000 federal public servants across the country with pay problems.

Foote will meet with employees, city and provincial officials to discuss Phoenix payroll mess

Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote is scheduled to meet with Pay Centre employees and Miramichi officials today. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Public Services Minister Judy Foote is expected to be in Miramichi today to tour the federal government's beleaguered Pay Centre sites amid the Phoenix payroll debacle.

Foote will talk to employees at the Mill and Mall offices and will meet with local and provincial officials, a spokeswoman confirmed.

Foote's visit comes one day before MPs are scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the bungled payroll system that has left 80,000 federal public servants across the country with pay problems, or no pay at all.

​Opposition parties demanded the meeting after hearing from thousands of affected constituents.

University of New Brunswick student Andrew Petryshyn, who is working at the Senate this summer, is among those left struggling to make ends meet until the pay issues are resolved.

He says he's owed about $3,000 and his savings are "reaching zero."

"I'm at my lowest; it's like the bottom of the barrel. I've had wrong deductions, improper recoveries and just now, no pay at all," he said. 

"It's scary."

 It's been extremely stressful.- Andrew  Petryshyn , affected federal public servant

"You know, I would expect some sort of compensation or money that I can use to pay for food and basic amenities, but I have nothing," said Petryshyn, who is entering his final year of kinesiology studies.

"I was ready to finally have enough to pay for university and not have to take out a loan, but sadly now I'm further out of money and definitely will have to seek out a loan at a bank," he said.

"It's been extremely stressful."

Petryshyn says he doesn't care whether the Liberal government or former Conservative government is to blame.

"I just want the issue solved right now," he said.

Scott Brison 'disgusted'

Treasury Board President Scott Brison says he's 'personally disgusted' with the Phoenix situation. (CBC)
Phoenix was initiated by Stephen Harper's Conservatives and was rolled out in phases under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's watch earlier this year amid warnings from the largest union representing federal public servants that there would be problems.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said thousands of its members experienced problems during the first phase of the rollout, which began in late February, and in April the union urged the Liberals not to move ahead with the next phase.

On Tuesday, Treasury Board President Scott Brison continued to point blame at the Conservatives for "delayed modernization of the payroll system" followed by implementation of the new system not being "handled properly."

"While we inherited this from the previous government, we understand fully our responsibility to fix it," the Kings-Hants MP told CBC News during an interview in Halifax.

"We're the employer. And it's pretty basic stuff that you pay your employees on time. And accurately. I'm personally disgusted with the situation," he said.

Brison said Foote and her department "are working night and day" to fix the system.

Supporting local workers

Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Pat Finnigan said the local employees are working hard to fix the payroll problems. (Facebook)
Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Pat Finnigan says he hopes to have the problems at the centre fixed quickly.

"The priority for me is to make sure the employees here get all the support they need because they are hard working and it's certainly taken a toll on them," he told Information Morning Moncton.

"This is why I asked the minister to come and meet with the workers, meet with the management," he said.

Finnigan says he wants the workers to know the federal government is supporting them.

He says many of the workers are confident the problems at the centre can be fixed, but because the story has been reported in the national news many are stressed.

"It's tough on them because some people think it's the employees. And at the end of the day it's not," he said.

"They want to fix this as much as anybody else."

Advisers stressed, on leave

Dozens of Pay Centre employees have gone leave because of stress over dealing with the problem-plagued system and backlog of cases. (CBC)
Last week, Trudeau promised to fix the system, appointing Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick to oversee the system's functioning and resolve all payment errors.

Earlier this month, Foote called on Auditor General Michael Ferguson to examine the planning and implementation of Phoenix.

The federal government has also opened a temporary facility in Gatineau to help offload the files piling up on the desks of Miramichi workers since the system was implemented in February.

Pay Centre employees are so stressed out dealing with the problem-plagued system and backlog of cases that dozens of them are on leave, according to the union and people working at the centre.

Of the 590 positions, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) estimated earlier this week there are more than 50 people currently on long-term leave believed to be stress-related.

The unions representing federal workers say there used to be about 2,700 compensation advisers across the country serving 300,000 employees before the consolidation of the offices and the move to Miramichi.

Today, the government says, there are 442 compensation advisers in Miramichi.

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