Phoenix pay system mess affects 80,000, government officials say

Federal officials have apologized to more than 80,000 employees who have had problems with their pay, and promised to work around the clock to fix the failed system.

Public servants have reported maxed-out credit cards, depleted savings and unpaid bills

Thousands of Public Service Alliance of Canada members have written letters of complaint. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

Federal officials have apologized to more than 80,000 employees who have had problems with their pay, and promised to work around the clock to fix the failed system.

Marie Lemay, deputy minister for Public Services and Procurement, revealed the scope of employees affected by problems with the new system, called Phoenix, during a news conference today. She called the situation "completely unacceptable."

About 720 public servants — mostly new hires and students — have not received pay. Another 1,100 have not received parental, long-term disability or severance payments, while more than 80,000 employees entitled to supplementary pay for extra duties, over-time or pay adjustments have had problems.

"We will do what is necessary to address them as quickly as possible," Lemay said.

Phoenix pay glitches unacceptable

7 years ago
Duration 2:25
Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Marie Lemay, says the glitches in the pay system are unacceptable, and blames the problems on a lack of training to get workers comfortable with the new pay system.

The deputy minister said the government grossly underestimated the time and training needed to move to the new system and clear out old cases, outstripping the capacity to respond. To clear the backlog, the government will hire temporary compensation adviser specialists and make technical enhancements to the system.

The government is also exploring options for reimbursing employees who were hit with penalties for late loan payments or insufficient funds.

The system has been plagued with problems since it rolled out earlier this year.

Phoenix Falling

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

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Federal public service employees have reported maxed-out credit cards, depleted savings and unpaid bills because of problems with the new pay system.

Workers in various departments have complained about not being paid, being underpaid, or in some cases being overpaid.

'We are fixing it,' Brison says

Public Works Minister Judy Foote has called the situation "unacceptable" and opened a temporary work centre to deal with a growing backlog of Phoenix-related cases.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said today he is frustrated with the mess and blamed it on the previous Conservative government.

"I'm disgusted by the situation that we inherited and we are fixing it," he said. "We have tremendous respect for the hard work of our public servants and they deserve to be paid accurately and on time."

PSAC calls it a 'national disgrace'

Chris Aylward, vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, was skeptical the measures would do anything to address the problems and accused the government of "spouting the same rhetoric" for months.

Chris Aylward, the national vice-president for PSAC, calls the Phoenix system problems a 'national disgrace.' (Submitted)

He also suggested officials underestimated the numbers of people most seriously affected.

"I'm not really enthusiastic about what they announced today because they didn't address Phoenix, and until they do the problems will continue," he told CBC News. "This is a national disgrace."

PSAC, which represents 170,000 public servants of the total force of 300,000, wants the Phoenix system taken off-line until the glitches are addressed.

A dozen unions representing federal workers have already filed a notice of application in Federal Court to force the government to pay its employees properly and on time. Aylward said that court action will proceed.