Ottawa

Public service pay glitches cause headaches for workers on parental leave

Federal workers on parental leave from their public service jobs say they're having trouble paying the bills because the government's automated payroll system has stopped cutting their cheques.

Phoenix pay system rolled out last winter

Federal workers on parental leave from their public service jobs say they're having trouble paying the bills because the government's automated payroll system has stopped cutting their cheques.

Several federal employees have reached out to CBC after experiencing pay glitches while on maternity or paternity leave.

The government started to roll out a new pay system called Phoenix last winter, and changes to the public service pay regime continued this spring.

Derek Dratwa, a correctional officer in Bath, Ont., says the government's new pay system has stopped his parental leave payments. (Supplied photo)
The new system has been widely criticized by workers and unions for either failing to pay bureaucrats properly, or not paying them at all.

No pay in 4 weeks

Derek Dratwa, a correctional officer at Millhaven Institution in Bath, Ont., has been on parental leave since last October, after he and his wife adopted their niece, whose mother was killed in a car accident.

While on parental leave, Dratwa receives employment insurance and the Correctional Service of Canada tops up his pay, as per federal government policy. 

"Everything has been running smoothly until the government implemented the new Phoenix pay system," said Dratwa who hasn't been paid in four weeks.

   
Everything has been running smoothly until the government implemented the new Phoenix pay system.- Derek Dratwa
    He said he's spent hours calling his own department and waiting on hold to get through to the government's pay centre.

"So far, the banks have been good, they can see I'm a federal employee and normally I get this money. So they've been very understanding. They've refunded all NSF (not sufficient funds) fees for now, but they basically said, 'We're only going to let it go another week or two and we're going to start wanting our money,'" said Dratwa. 

Phoenix system blamed

Another worker who was recently on parental leave from a job at Global Affairs Canada said he went without pay for eight weeks.

The worker, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said he's now back to work on regular pay, but still has not received his parental leave pay.

That's a familiar story to a Services Canada worker who told CBC she hasn't been paid for the past three months of her maternity leave, when her department switched over to the Phoenix pay system.

Public Services and Procurement Canada oversees the federal pay system. 

Brigitte  Fortin, assistant deputy minister of accounting, banking and compensation at PSPC, said the Phoenix system was implemented to streamline and update a 40-year-old pay system.

"The old pay system was very manual ... and cumbersome. It takes some time for people to learn the new system and get accustomed to the new processes, but over time we'll definitely see improvements," Fortin told CBC.

Brigitte Fortin is assistant deputy minister of accounting, banking and compensation at Public Services and Procurement Canada. (Roberta Gal)

On Thursday, the department issued a statement to CBC: "We are concerned about the stress that such a situation would cause for families caring for a new child. We can confirm that, for those departments and agencies serviced by the Pay Centre in Miramichi, all maternity leave requests received have been processed."

System only as useful as input

PSPC is pointing the finger at other departments for the pay glitches.

"We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for employee information to be submitted in an accurate, timely manner. Phoenix is an advanced, robust system, but like any IT solution, it is only as useful as the input it receives,"  PSPC said in the statement.

The payroll glitch is something that unions representing federal workers are following closely.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, the largest union representing federal employees, issued an advisory to its member on Wednesday.

"We continue to maintain that the rollout of Phoenix is seriously flawed and was not set up to properly account for complex pay situations," according to the advisory. "PSAC will continue to work with the federal government to make sure that the Phoenix-related pay problems get resolved as soon as possible."

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