'It's driven people to despair': Nunavut Senator speaks out on troubled Phoenix pay system

Dennis Patterson has received about a dozen emails and had many more calls and face-to-face conversations with people who've watched their savings erode as they try to cope with pay issues.

Federal employees in Nunavut failing to receive isolation pay

Thousands of federal employees across Canada have had problems with their pay. Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson says he wants Northern circumstances taken into account as the government tries to fix the problems. (CBC)

Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson says the stories of financial hardship faced by Northern federal employees in the wake of the Phoenix pay debacle have inspired him to speak out. 

Patterson received about a dozen emails and had many more calls and face-to-face conversations with people who've watched their savings erode as they try to cope with pay issues.

​"It's driven people to despair," Patterson said in an interview with CBC News. 

One man explained how he had to sell his snowmobile to pay the bills and support his family. 

Tens of thousands of public servants have had problems with being underpaid, overpaid, or not receiving any pay at all since Phoenix launched in February 2016. 

But Patterson said the high cost of living makes it worse in the North. People are not receiving their isolated-post allowance (IPA) and in one case, the money was 10 months late. 

Senator Dennis Patterson says he's heard from dozens of federal employees who've faced financial hardship in the wake of issues with the Phoenix pay system.
 "If you are in the lower end of the pay scale as some of these employees are starting their careers with the federal government, the IPA makes up about half their paycheque, so it's like suddenly getting half paid," Patterson said.

"It's really heartbreaking."

Patterson has written a letter to the newly assembled working group on the Phoenix issues, outlining the problems facing Nunavummiut. He's asking the group to take the unique Northern situation into account.

He suggested they form a team of compensation advisors that understand the pay situations in the North, as well as reach out to the government representative in the Senate to find a solution. 

"This is not a problem that needs money, this a problem that should and can be fixed," he said. 

"It's a matter of giving employees what they are entitled to under the terms of their employment."