Miramichi Public Service Pay Centre staff struggling with workload

Miramichi is under scrutiny after claims its overworked and stressed staff can't manage the volume of government pay cheques.

Mayor Gerry Cormier says centre may need hundreds more workers to keep up

Miramichi is under scrutiny after claims its overworked and stressed staff can't manage the volume of government pay cheques. 

Hundreds of complaints have been coming into the Public Service Pay Centre union headquarters about people not getting paid. Other calls are coming in from the payroll workers in Miramichi who can't keep up.

"We believe that it was simply too soon, too fast, you know bringing in too many accounts and not allowing the employees there the opportunity basically to make sure that they have the resources and the support in place to do the job properly," said Chris Aylward of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Payroll centre employees work in temporary quarters in two places in Miramichi as they await the construction of the new federal payroll centre.

The payroll centre was moved to the city by the federal government. It handles 72,000 payroll files from government offices across Canada. Another 5,000 are expected to be transferred in August. That will go up to 184,000 by October.

Complaints are now coming into the union from people hired for the summer, or back from leave, saying they haven't been paid for up to 11 weeks.

At the same time, the union is hearing from the Miramichi workers that they are overwhelmed.

Understaffed by hundreds? 

Mayor Gerry Cormier said they need more people.

"What it tells me is that we need more people here on the Miramichi to do the job. Instead of 550, maybe we need 1,000 or so? Maybe it tells me they need more people with experience and maybe more people to do the job," he said.

MP Tilly O'Neill Gordon says the 550 jobs are very important and she's confident things will be worked out.

"It's just a matter of them learning their job and taking the time to process it," she said.

An assistant deputy minister flew in to meet with staff on Monday night. A person who attended the meeting said an employee described the workload as trying to outrun a tsunami.

Harold Donaher lives in the area and said he hopes they figure it out.

"We're so happy to have the payroll on the river, and we welcome everyone here. I just hope that people at payroll aren't just setting us up to fail in the Miramichi," he said.

"Do a lot of people across the country want it here in the Miramichi? I guess that's a question that will be asked by many people, and I know the workers are overworked with the amount of training they've had so far."