PEI

P.E.I. public servants still feeling Phoenix effect 4 years in

Four years after the issues began, federal civil servants are saying they're still feeling the effect of the Phoenix pay system debacle. 

‘Lots of people live paycheque to paycheque’

Michelle Neill says she's heard of PSAC members losing homes, not being able to pay bills, and being forced to leave their job due to lack of pay. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

Four years after the issues began, federal civil servants are saying they're still feeling the effect of the Phoenix pay system debacle. 

The problem-plagued electronic payroll system has improperly paid tens of thousands of public servants since its launch in 2016. Employees have gone months with little or no pay, while others have been overpaid, sometimes for months at a time.  

"Unfortunately our members are basically in dire straits when it comes to the Phoenix issues," said Michelle Neill, Atlantic director for members with disabilities with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

There is a backlog of more than 200,000 issues with the pay system, Neill said. 

"We definitely need those things dealt with faster and to stabilize the Phoenix system, because we know it's going to take quite a while to replace that system."

Neill said she knows of members who have lost their homes, been unable to pay bills, or had to quit their jobs because they were not being paid.

"They're certainly taking a long time to try and resolve these issues," she said. "Lots of people live paycheque to paycheque."

In addition to those who have been underpaid or gone without pay, more than 98,000 civil servants have been overpaid and have yet to pay back the surplus

Making their voices heard

Neill was one of seven PSAC demonstrators who held a sit-in at Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay's office in Montague Friday. MacAulay has been the minister of veterans affairs since last year.

Seven members held a sit-in in Lawrence MacAulay's office in Montague Friday, including Debi Buell. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"We did have a sit-in previously in March of last year, and we did speak with Lawrence and he made some promises to us to follow up on our request to speak with the minister of treasury board as well as the minister of Canada Revenue Agency," said Neill.

"To date we quite haven't quite heard back from him on that."

Neill said their main concern is fair and timely compensation for their members. 

In May 2019, the government reached a settlement with several large unions to compensate workers with paid leave for the stress caused by Phoenix pay issues over the last three years.

PSAC was the largest of those unions, representing 140,000 public servants, and rejected that deal, citing that "the offer the government put on the table is nowhere near what they deserve."

"We are hearing now that it will be 2022 before the system is stabilized," said Debi Buell, president of Local 90001 with the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees of PSAC. 

"We can't rely on that."

MacAulay was in meetings in Washington but called in to speak with the demonstrators.

Neill told CBC News Friday afternoon that during today's call, MacAulay said he understood their concerns because he has constituents dealing with the issue, and told them he plans to address their concerns with the minister responsible.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker, Catharine Tunney and The Canadian Press

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