'It hasn't gone away': Phoenix woes big issue at bargaining table
Public sector union to press new Treasury Board president
One of Canada's largest unions plans to hammer the new president of the Treasury Board on outstanding issues related to the Phoenix pay system, calling the backlog of unresolved cases unacceptable.
"Every payday our members are still affected by Phoenix," said Chris Aylward, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). "It hasn't gone away."
Nearly four years since the pay system went live, federal public sector workers are still being overpaid or underpaid, while others wait for back pay, said Aylward.
He said PSAC plans to raise this point and push for wage increases when the union meets with the new minister responsible for the Treasury Board, Jean-Yves Duclos, for bargaining talks on Dec. 6.
Roughly 140,000 PSAC members are currently without a contract.
Spring strike possible
There are currently 228,000 pay issues the public service pay centre is working to resolve, according to the Government of Canada's online dashboard. The government's target is zero.
During contract talks in September, Aylward said a major sticking point between his union and government was wage increases.
If progress isn't made in the negotiations — of which Phoenix damage settlements play a major part — he said PSAC members would be ready to strike in the early spring.
"We're not asking for the moon and the stars. We're not asking for 8 to 10 per cent we're asking for the cost of living," said Aylward.
PSAC has already rejected a Phoenix damages agreement signed by other bargaining units that would credit employees up to five days of leave and compensation for expenses and financial losses resulting from pay issues.
The union continues its call for cash compensation for members affected by Phoenix.
In an email to CBC a spokesperson for the Treasury Board said the federal government "remains committed to bargaining in good faith."
"We are disappointed that PSAC rejected a fair offer that included wage adjustments and provisions in line with the recent agreements signed by 34 other bargaining units," the statement said.
2 ministers handling file
Along with Duclos, another new minister is working on the Phoenix file.
Anita Anand, the new Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), is the third minister in four years to oversee the department that operates the current pay system.
Both PSPC and the Treasury Board must work together to replace Phoenix.
Anand told CBC's The House this weekend she has already had a "number of high-level briefings" on Phoenix since she was assigned her post.
"There's no question that Canada's public servants deserve to be paid accurately and on time for their important work. And that's something that I'm going to continue to turn my mind to as minister," she said.
Aylward, however, argues the Liberals have not done enough to resolve pay issues over the last four years.
"They have to hire more compensation advisors to make sure that backlog is cleared up and to continue with, of course, a new [pay] process as well," he said.
with files from CBC's The House and Julie Ireton