Sydney Citizenship office employees haven't been paid since January
Outdated paper system being switched over to new electronic payroll
Thirty-five federal government employees at the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada office in Sydney have yet to receive their first pay cheque after almost two months on the job.
The public servants were hired in early January and are being offered emergency salary advances. The local Liberal MP blames the problem on issues at the federal government's pay centre in Miramichi, N.B.
Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking said he has been fielding complaints at his constituency office.
"It's really terrible what's happened with these … new employees," he said.
Eyking said the problem dates back to when the previous Conservative government shut down the long-gun registry and turned the Canadian Firearms Centre in Miramichi into a central payroll site for 46 government departments.
"It's causing major backlogs and headaches," Eyking said.
The payroll centre is part of the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada. But Brigitte Fortin, assistant deputy minister of accounting, banking and administration, said the Miramichi centre is not to blame.
"This is a very exceptional situation that appeared in that particular department for those employees," she said. "The [paperwork] was not sent to Miramichi by the department on time to put them on payroll."
Fortin said the delays are caused by an outdated, manual paper system that's at least 45 years old and which is being replaced. She said beginning Feb. 24, a new electronic system will be implemented.
There were similar complaints from other federal government departments last year. Students hired for the summer and term employees were not getting paid on time.
Fortin said that particular issue was resolved.
"When Miramichi was created, people there had to go do some training so of course they were not as productive as any other people," she said.
The Immigration office in Sydney is one of 34 government departments included in phase one of the implementation of the new pay system known as Pheonix. Sixty-seven other departments will be in the system in April.