Treasury Board president invites frustrated public servants to call about pay problems

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said public servants frustrated by ongoing glitches with the government's new pay system can first try a central number, then "they can phone my office."

'We want to help public servants get through this ... because this is totally unacceptable'

Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, says his government wants to help public servants through the pay system problems. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Still having problems getting paid at your federal government job? The guy in charge wants you to pick up the phone and give him a call.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison is responsible for federal public servants in this country.

"We want to help public servants get through this," Brison said from his Nova Scotia riding.

He stressed that workers should first call the pay centre to seek resolution to their problems, but failing that "they can phone my office, because this is totally unacceptable," Brison said.

Brison has already heard his share of complaints about the fledgling government pay centre's problems.

The new Phoenix pay system that was implemented in February has been plagued with issues. Workers from several federal departments across the country have complained their pay cheques have been incorrect, late or haven't been issued at all.

Some workers just scraping by

Natalie Snow, a graduate student working at Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in Toronto, said she's been underpaid since her federal student work exchange program contract began in April. 

She's one of several students CBC news has talked to who are not being properly paid for their work.

I signed a contract in good faith that I'd be paid accordingly. I still come to work five days a week, I still do everything I'm supposed to be doing and you're not holding up your part of the bargain.- Natalie Snow, federal government worker

When it comes to her bills, Snow said she can only manage the minimum payments.

"I just have enough to cover what I'm doing, not to do anything else. No extra food, no entertainment. I'm barely covering my credit card. Then my tuition, I'm trying to save for that," said Snow. "I'm just [getting] by."

Snow said she tried calling the Phoenix call centre 75 times before 9 a.m., but kept getting a busy signal.

She said on other occasions she has managed to get through, but then gets cut off. Snow has her own message for Brison.

"I want to tell him to fix this thing. I want to be paid and not in two months, not in three weeks, I want to be paid on the next pay day," said Snow. "I signed a contract in good faith that I'd be paid accordingly. I still come to work five days a week, I still do everything I'm supposed to be doing and you're not holding up your part of the bargain."

Snow said she's had five student contracts with Indigenous Affairs over the past couple of years and four out of five times she's been improperly paid.

Emergency funds available, Brison says

Brison and the minister in charge of the pay system, Judy Foote, have both said the problems stem from a new system brought in by the previous government.

They said as a stop-gap, departments have funds to dole out to workers who aren't being paid. "Individual departments have funds to fix this," said Brison. "There are funds available to deal with this quickly."

But Snow tried that and said it hasn't been an option for her.

"So I did apply for an emergency salary advance and I was denied because I'm getting a portion of a pay cheque," said Snow. "It was denied by the pay centre. They closed the account without telling me."

Brison's office said the pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., is currently dealing with 117 active complaints and they're "working hard to resolve these issues."

But the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the biggest union representing government workers said it has heard from 2,000 workers experiencing pay problems, a number PSAC said rises each day.