Ottawa·phoenix falling

Businesses lose clients, confidence with public service pay uncertainty

Some businesses in Ottawa say federal government worker pay problems are trickling down to affect their bottom line.

Disposable income getting scarce for many federal government workers with Phoenix pay system issues

Ian Stewart says he's never seen uncertainty like this in his 26 years of working in landscaping. He says clients that work for the federal government are telling him they need to scale back on spending because of uncertainty with the new Phoenix pay system. (CBC)

Ian Stewart and Rochelle Spracklin say they recently lost another client and gained another gap in the schedule for their landscaping business: a federal public servant who said they were worried about having enough money because of ongoing issues with the Phoenix pay system.

"Ottawa has always been a very stable city, customers have always been great, we've never had this uncertainty," said Stewart, who's been in the business 26 years.

"There doesn't seem to be a fix, an immediate fix. Nobody seems to know when it's going to get better, which is really scary for a lot of people."

At a news conference on Thursday, government officials said at least 80,000 public servants have reported getting paid the wrong amount since Phoenix rolled out in February.

A timeline released that same day says it could be until October until everything is fixed.

With so many federal public servants living and working in Ottawa, Spracklin said their business Yards Unlimited Landscaping is feeling the pinch more

"Landscaping is a luxury item, as are pools, as are a lot of things. For us, what we're seeing is people are being a lot more cautious," she said Friday.

"Where they might have thought they had money to build a beautiful garden this year, [now] they're putting us on hold… we don't want to start downsizing, we don't want to start having laying off people, so it's a great concern for us."

Big purchases on hold

Alina Dias and her husband, a federal government worker whose paycheque has been affected, have delayed buying a new car, going on vacation and bringing in a plumber to fix a leaky pipe.

Instead, they're patching the pipe with duct tape.

Holding back on big purchases 'point of frustration'

6 years ago
Duration 1:53
Alina Dias and her husband, a federal government worker affected by the Phoenix payroll mess, have delayed buying a new car, going on vacation and bringing in a plumber to fix a leaky pipe.

"I think it's a point of frustration for many and can be for us," she said.

"There are some luxury things you hope to be doing in the summer and big items that we were hoping to purchase like a new car are on hold until we've got a better handle of what's happening with the system."

Other types of businesses doing better

Businesses that sell things people need rather than things they buy with disposable income aren't feeling much of the Phoenix effect yet, according to the head of an Ottawa small business organization.

Ruddy Daniels is the president of the Capital Business Association. He says public servants are usually a reliable source of business in the city. (CBC)

Ruddy Daniels, president of the Capital Business Association that represents around 40 small businesses in Ottawa, said members who sell things such as tires and dry cleaning are still doing good business.

"It's not showing any effect, there aren't numbers like we've dropped our business by 15 per cent, 20 per cent. There's none of that," he said.

"However we certainly don't want to put something else on our plates to deal with as a small business going forward."

The Ottawa Chamber of Commerce also said it hasn't got any complaints from its members that public service pay problems are having a big effect on them.