Ottawa·Phoenix Falling

Union asks for emergency advance over $1.7M in missing union dues

A union representing professionals is asking the Treasury Board for emergency money because problems with the Phoenix pay system have left it short $1.7 million.

Government collecting wrong union dues for 70 percent of PIPSC members, says union

Debi Daviau, president of the PIPSC, is asking the government for an emergency advance to help pay for union dues that haven't been allocated because of Phoenix. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

A union representing the federal government's professional employees is asking the Treasury Board for emergency money because the Phoenix pay system failed to properly transfer $1.7 million worth of union dues.

Since Phoenix rolled out almost a year ago, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) calculated it has been dramatically underpaid union fees. PIPSC represents more than 50,000 workers including scientists, accountants and engineers.

President Debi Daviau said she's been reluctant to talk about the financial shortfall while unpaid public servants are suffering hardships, and that the union's efforts have been focussed on getting members the money they are owed. Her hope was that the union's pay problems would be sorted out over time.

But the problem has continued to grow and may damage the union's operations, Daviau said. 

"This is money we need to represent our members," Daviau told CBC News.

"A year in at $1.7 million, we are deeply concerned about our continuing ability to provide the high-quality services to our members that they obviously desperately need in the context of Phoenix. It's really a lot of money for us at this point." 

70 per cent of workers affected

The government has not collected the proper union dues for 70 per cent of PIPSC's members since Phoenix was implemented, the union said.

Linda Martel, the union's manager of membership and administration, said it's "very disconcerting."

"I've been here for 38 years at the institute and I've never seen anything like this."

Martel discovered the government wasn't properly collecting union dues in May when the union's customized database spit out a large report flagging discrepancies. It was immediately clear that money was missing, she said.

"We had a lot of members that weren't paying any dues," Martel said. "We had a lot of our members that were paying a different rate than our $62.56 a month; we had members paying more than the $62.56."

The union said it told Public Services and Procurement Canada the pay system isn't properly collecting dues but that the problem still hasn't been resolved. 

Martel is meeting with the Treasury Board on Friday to ask for an emergency advance of money for the union, in the same way many federal workers have had to ask for compensation when they weren't getting paid due to Phoenix problems.

The union will also present detailed records of the discrepancies Phoenix created in membership dues. 
Linda Martel has been balancing the books at PIPSC and has hundreds of records showing the government isn't collecting the proper union dues from its members. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Other unions affected

Other unions representing public servants aren't sure exactly how much money they are missing.

The Association of Canadian Financial Officers said it relies on the government to tell them if employees are coming and going from its membership, but that there have been issues since Phoenix rolled out. 

"Part of the problem is ... getting any kind of information from the system and employer on this," said Joe Boughner, the association's director of communications.

"It's hard to know if the information is correct and how many dues we might be missing, but it's not something that's affecting our operations and we're much more focused on getting our members' problems solved."

The largest union in the public service confirmed it is also experiencing issues, but did not provide an estimate about how many people could be affected.

"In some cases union dues have been impacted by Phoenix," said Robyn Benson, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, in a statement. "However, our primary focus remains the direct impact of the Phoenix debacle on our members."

The Treasury Board confirmed the meeting with PIPSC on union dues is scheduled for Friday. 

About the Author

Ashley Burke

Reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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