Ottawa·Phoenix Falling

Public servant who wasn't getting paid quits in disgust

A public servant is enraged she had to quit her part-time job and pull her daughter out of full-day daycare because the government didn't pay her salary for more than five months due to the problem-plagued Phoenix payroll system.

'I was so sick of paying fees on our line of credit and our credit cards'

'It's absolutely ridiculous'

Ottawa

5 years ago
0:11
A public servant is enraged she had to quit her job and pull her daughter out of daycare because the government didn't pay her salary for more months due to the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system. 0:11

A public servant is enraged she had to quit her part-time job and pull her daughter out of full-day daycare because the government didn't pay her salary for more than five months due to the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system.

Lydia Chandrasekaran received one emergency advance, but said it wasn't enough to get by on since December.

The human resources worker gave up her career at Global Affairs in May to stay home with her three-year-old daughter Maven in Almonte, Ont., and save $1,000 a month on daycare. Their family has been relying on her husband's salary.

I had to forgo my career ... It's really upsetting.- Lydia  Chandrasekaran  

"I had to forgo my career," said Chandrasekaran, who is pregnant and is expecting her second child.

"It's really upsetting.... I was so sick of paying fees on our line of credit and our credit cards and whatever fees we were incurring because of not being able to pay the bills every month. I just got sick of it."

Even after Chandrasekaran quit, it took her another month to get the $7,000 she was owed in back pay. 

"It's absolutely ridiculous that they're getting away with not paying people for so long. Six and a half months is an insane amount of time to ask someone to wait to be paid for the work that you're doing. It's absolutely not acceptable."

Chandrasekaran quit her job at Global Affairs after more than five months without a regular paycheque. (Submitted by family)

Payday problems 

Government workers across Canada are checking their bank accounts Wednesday to see if their pay problems have been fixed.

In a briefing last week, Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote said that 720 federal employees — mostly new hires and students — had contacted the government about not being paid since the Phoenix pay system was implemented earlier this year, and that 486 of them would get a lump sum of back pay on Wednesday. Another 1,100 workers have not received parental, long-term disability or severance payments, while more than 80,000 employees entitled to supplementary pay for extra duties, overtime or pay adjustments have had problems.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said the government "is on target" to provide the lump sum payments to those 486 people who haven't been paid, adding that an update on the situation will be provided Thursday.

Student Andrew Petryshyn said, however, that a new problem emerged this pay day and that his financial mess has hit rock bottom.

My pay stub says I'll be getting zero dollars.-  Andrew  Petryshyn , Senate of Canada worker

"My pay stub says I'll be getting zero dollars," Petryshyn said. "It's frustrating and saddening to see it. I've had wrong deductions, improper recovery and now just no pay at all." 

The Senate of Canada worker says he can't afford to pay for his final year of tuition at the University of New Brunswick without taking out his first bank loan. Petryshyn said a pay adviser at the Phoenix call centre promised him he would receive a full pay cheque this week.

"I'm extremely upset," Petryshyn said. "I'm just at an all-time low. It was just a matter of not getting paid and wrong deductions and just a hit after hit."

In an emailed statement on Tuesday, Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold wrote that the government "is on target to provide lump sum payments this week," add that an additional update on the situation will be provided Thursday.

Student Andrew Petryshyn hasn't received his proper paycheque since he started his summer job at the Senate in May. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Access to pay stubs disabled for 6 days

Workers complained last week that they were left in the dark and locked out of the online system where they can check their upcoming pay stubs. The department in charge confirmed to CBC News it shut down that system for six days.

"Employees' ability to view their pay stubs in Phoenix had been disabled one week before payday, from Wednesday night until Monday morning, so that employees could only view their upcoming pay stubs once the final amount was calculated in the system," Public Services and Procurement Canada wrote in a statement. "This practice has been discontinued to allow access at all times."

The Liberal government is facing mounting political pressure to fix the payroll problems. Members of Parliament are flying into Ottawa for an emergency meeting about the Phoenix issues on Thursday. 

"We feel terribly about the situation," Treasury Board President Scott Brison said. "We are fixing it, and even though we inherited this from the previous government, we understand we have a responsibility to fix it and we're doing exactly that."

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said yesterday in Halifax that he's personally disgusted with the Phoenix situation. (CBC)

While the new system was spearheaded under the previous Conservative government, it rolled out in phases under the Trudeau government's watch earlier this year in spite of a warning from the largest union representing federal public servants.

As for Lydia Chandrasekaran, she said it's heartbreaking to hear stories about other workers still holding out hope they will get paid soon.

She wants someone from the government to be fired over the payroll mess that's turned people's lives upside down.

"This is not OK," Chandrasekaran said. "They need to fix this. It's time to stop throwing their hands up and pretending like they don't have to take responsibility. They really do need to take responsibility for this and stop asking people to just wait patiently. It's ludicrous."

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