New Brunswick

'I'm not staying silent': Phoenix payroll frustrations voiced in Miramichi

Four people mired in payroll delays plaguing the federal government because of its troubled Phoenix system took their frustrations to the federal payroll centre in Miramichi on Friday.

Problem-plagued system has forced tens of thousands of federal employees to endure pay problems

Patrick Basque thinks the federal government should set a better example in fixing its payroll problems. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Four people mired in payroll delays plaguing the federal government because of its troubled Phoenix system took their frustrations to the federal payroll centre in Miramichi on Friday.

Three of the people, as seasonal workers for the Department of National Defence, make repairs to the training area at Base Gagetown after military exercises.

More than half the 60 people in their unit didn't get their first paycheque after their seasonal work began in May, they said.

Roxanne Merrill Young went to Miramichi to make a stand. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
Others have had different experiences since then, ranging from "mild, to extreme, to in-between," said Roxanne Merrill Young.

Merrill Young was among those who received a first paycheque last spring, but she encountered problems six weeks later when the paycheques stopped.

Patrick Basque is still owed his final paycheque from last year, about $1,000, which was due in November.

"I can't seem to find out from anybody what's going on, why I'm not receiving it.

Government should be setting a little better example.- Patrick Basque, seasonal National Defence employee

"Whenever I make phone calls, it's just one phone call to the next, leads you on to somebody else," Basque said.

"I still have no satisfaction on where or when or if I'm ever going to get it. I'd just like to get my last pay and move on." 

Small private companies would have fixed such problems long before now, he said.

"This is government. Government should be setting a little better example than what we have right now."

8,000-case backlog

The federal government said this week there is still a backlog of 8,000 cases dating back to before July 1, where civil servants are having problems with pay under the Phoenix system.

Another 13,000 "top priority" cases have arisen since July 1, said the department in charge of Phoenix. The government has not stated the number of low priority cases filed since July 2016.

The computerized pay system rolled out in February 2016 and has led to tens of thousands of complaints by federal employees. Some were underpaid while others were overpaid and some were not paid at all.

Coast Guard employee Bruce Shillington says he was put on hold from 8 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. when he was trying to get answers about his pay situation. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)
Coast Guard employee Bruce Shillington of Saint John was told he owed the government $16,500 that he was overpaid in long-term disability benefits while fighting cancer before returning to work full time in August.

"I knew I owed them," said Shillington. "But they only gave me $12,000, so they were looking for $4,000 more than they actually gave me."

Merrill Young said she has not been as severely affected as some of her co-workers, but she made the trip to the federal payroll centre in Miramichi with a purpose.

"This is where it stems from," she said. "The institution is elusive to us.

"We can't reach this place. We can't get any answers from them.

"I came here … to make a stand that I'm not staying silent."

With files from Catherine Harrop

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