Claims process launched for public servants affected by Phoenix pay system

The federal government announced a new claims process for public servants who suffered severe financial and personal losses as a result of the Phoenix pay system on Tuesday.

PSAC members who suffered severe losses may apply

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a claims process for Public Service Alliance of Canada members affected by the Phoenix pay system. (Radio-Canada)

The federal government announced a new claims process for public servants who suffered severe financial and personal losses as a result of the Phoenix pay system on Tuesday.

It means members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada union (PSAC) who suffered a loss can make a claim for financial hardship or serious mental suffering caused by Phoenix. The union says a minimum threshold of $1,500 may apply, depending on the type of claim. 

"This is good news," said Alex Silas, PSAC's executive vice-president for the National Capital Region. "But we're going to be watchful as the union to make sure the employer doesn't drag their feet. It's not time to dilly-dally." 

"We got the deal. So now let's get the dough," he added. 

The implementation of the Phoenix pay system in 2016 caused headaches for federal employees across the country. Some employees received too much money and others weren't paid on time.

While other unions have reached deals with the government, PSAC is the largest union of federal public servants. Silas said the union held out for cash damages, wanting an agreement that would be equitable for all members. 

The new claims process is open to approximately 220,000 former and current employees, according to the federal government, as well as the estates of employees who have since died.

Those who endured financial costs, mental anguish or other personal impacts are all eligible. Employees who took sick leave, or other time off due to illnesses stemming from pay issues, can also apply. 

'And it's not just about the money,' retired public servant Hélène Potvin told Radio-Canada in English. 'It's about justice.' (Radio-Canada)

Hélène Potvin is a retired civil servant, who intends to file a claim for mental anguish caused by Phoenix. A few months after her retirement, she received an overpayment of $23,000 in error, beginning a year-long ordeal. 

The overpayment also meant the Canada Revenue Agency wanted more in taxes, which led to even further problems. 

"And it's not just about the money,"  she told Radio-Canada in English. "It's about justice."

The claims process was part of an agreement signed by the PSAC in October 2020. 

Silas said the PSAC will continue to push for those deserving of payments to be fairly compensated. 

"This doesn't make it OK, right?" Silas said. "This doesn't erase the nightmare that so many had to live under — not being able to pay their bills." 

PSAC pleased, but says battle isn't over 

He said PSAC heard from members who lost cars, homes and suffered depression all due to the hardships caused by the Phoenix fiasco. 

"I mean, we've seen suicides that have been linked to Phoenix," he said.

In a press release, Ottawa MP Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board, said the federal government is determined to provide fair compensation to all current and former employees who experienced Phoenix pay issues. 

While the claims process doesn't mean the Phoenix payroll system saga is over, Silas said his union negotiated hard and is pleased by Tuesday's announcement. 

"We still need to make sure that these workers are paid out their damages," he said. "The damages that they're owed." 

I think it'll finally be over once all those damages are paid out, and once we can finally say that there are no longer any pay issues related to Phoenix."

With files from Radio-Canada's Charles Lalande and Fiona Collienne

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