Ottawa

RCMP civilian employees fear joining Phoenix fray

Civilian employees with the RCMP are asking their employer to hold off on shifting them over to the troubled Phoenix pay system after seeing what's happened to tens of thousands of federal public servants in other departments.

Plan afoot to move 4,000 dispatchers, analysts to beleaguered pay system by May

RCMP employees including dispatchers at 911 call centres like this one in Nova Scotia could soon be paid through the troubled Phoenix system. (Nova Scotia RCMP)

Civilian employees with the RCMP are asking their employer to hold off on shifting them over to the troubled Phoenix pay system after seeing what's happened to tens of thousands of federal public servants in other departments.

The change would affect approximately 4,000 civilian RCMP employees including 911 dispatchers and electronic surveillance analysts.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the employees are worried about joining a pay system that "continues to cause Canadians irreparable financial difficulties, psychological stress and destroys people's lives."

Tens of thousands of workers have been stung by Phoenix, the IBM-customized system that went live in February 2016. Some have gone months with little or no pay, while others have been overpaid, complicating their personal finances.

"What we fear is that we won't get paid. We won't be paid wholly, or on time," said Kathleen Hippern, president of CUPE Local 104, the union representing RCMP dispatchers.

Hippern said her members see their public service colleagues struggling with ongoing pay issues and "suffering at the most vulnerable times, too, when they're going on sick leave or when they're taking maternity or paternity leave."

Kathleen Hippern is president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local representing RCMP dispatchers. (SKYPE)

She said they're afraid if they're switched over to Phoenix, they'll be next.

"We don't feel that this is reasonable to go over to Phoenix at this time. We're looking for the government to please hold off on transferring us."

According to Hippern, while a final decision hasn't been made, feasibility studies are underway to switch the employees over to Phoenix by May.

"They've studied how to transition civilian members to the pay system, but they haven't studied how well the pay system will pay us, especially in comparison to the working system we have now," she said.

Gatineau MP Steve MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public services and procurement, says the government is working on it.

"We have implemented a series of measures to stabilize the pay system, and we will not stop working to reduce the backlog until it is zero," MacKinnon said in a statement.

Gatineau MP Steve MacKinnon is parliamentary secretary to the minister of public services and procurement. (Dereck Doherty/RADIO-CANADA)

'A tragic situation'

But that's cold comfort to Hippern and her colleagues at the RCMP.

"It's a tragic situation all around, and it's really stressful considering that our jobs are to support public safety within Canada, [and] to support the regular members who are going to be continued to be paid on the member pay system that we're hoping to stay on ourselves.... To worry about how we're going to pay our bills while we go in and support front-line operations is very concerning."

A petition launched on Feb. 6 on the House of Commons website calls for the transfer of RCMP's civilian employees to be delayed until the Phoenix issues are resolved, or until a reliable and stable replacement pay system is put in place.

By Monday, the petition had collected more than 2,000 signatures. It will remain open until March 7.

With files from Radio-Canada's Roxane Léouzon

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