Ottawa

Hundreds more public servants come forward with Phoenix pay problems, government says

Hundreds of new cases of public servants going entirely without pay or without some pay are continuing to surface as the federal government continues to work its way through a backlog of tens of thousands of cases.

The remaining backlog of cases sits at 77,000, down from 82,000 in mid-July

Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada Marie Lemay says 'no one should feel intimidated' by coming forward with their pay problems. (CBC)

The number of public servants affected by the plagued Phoenix pay system continues to rise by the hundreds and is expected to climb even higher, say government officials.

At a technical briefing on Thursday, Public Services and Procurement Canada announced that 274 more public servants came forward in the last two weeks and said they are not being paid at all.

Another 620 workers lodged complaints that they were only getting partially paid, Deputy Minister Marie Lemay said.

We expect this will keep happening, but should continue to diminish ...- Marie Lemay, deputy minister

"We expect this will keep happening, but should continue to diminish as we continue to identify and resolve root causes," said Lemay.

Ever since the federal government launched its new Phoenix payroll system, designed by IBM, in February it's been plagued with problems. Tens of thousands of workers reported being underpaid, overpaid and not paid at all.

Some public servants maxed out their credit cards, went on stress leave, or quit because they could no longer afford to pay for their child's daycare bill.

Working through backlog

The government has hired 120 compensation advisers so far to work at new, temporary pay centres in Gatineau, Winnipeg and Shawinigan to deal with the massive backlog of cases. 

More than 77,000 people are receiving their normal pay but are missing their acting pay, salary adjustments, or extra duty pay. That's down from 82,000 cases in mid-July. The government says it's on track to address all of the cases by Oct. 31.

A new call centre in Toronto is handling 2,100 calls a day with workers so compensation advisers at the Miramichi pay centre can focus on cases, Lemay said.

The number of compensation advisers hired to work at new pay hubs dealing with a backlog of cases. (Public Services and Procurement Canada)

Overpayment clawbacks eased

In recent weeks, the government encouraged workers struggling financially to apply for emergency salary advances to get by. However, the way the system is set up, those salary advances automatically came off an employee's next paycheque.

That made some people's problems go from bad to worse. They went from getting some pay to suddenly receiving a $0.00 paycheque.

"As of today we're not going to go and claw it all at [once]," said Lemay. "What we've decided collectively is that we will actually do this now on multiple pay periods."

Anyone with questions about the tax implications of their payment issues can get answers through an information line being set up by the Canada Revenue Agency, Lemay said.

A claims process for the out-of-pocket expenses incurred by workers with pay issues will hopefully be in place by early September, according to Lemay.

'No one should feel intimidated'

Some workers have told CBC News they fear reprisal for coming forward about the problems they're having, something Lemay said Thursday was "very concerning" to her.

We can't help if we don't know who you are.- Marie Lemay, deputy minister

"No one should feel intimidated" about coming forward about their basic right to payment, Lemay said.

She asked anyone with issues to confront the government about them.

"We can't help if we don't know who you are," Lemay said.


Phoenix falling

CBC Ottawa has been collecting stories from civil servants, part-time employees and student workers who have been affected by the Phoenix payroll system problems. Here are some of their stories:

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