Politics

Government accused of hiding full scope of Phoenix fiasco

The largest union representing federal public servants is demanding the government release updated information on the Phoenix payroll fiasco. The government has repeatedly said nearly 82,000 workers have had issues with their pay, but that number only includes workers who came forward with issues before July 1, 2016.

Union calling for updated data on payroll problems

Marie Lemay, deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, listens to a question during a technical briefing on the Phoenix pay system. It's not yet clear when the system will be operating as intended. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The federal government is being accused of hiding the full scope of the Phoenix payroll fiasco.

The largest union representing public servants is demanding the government release updated information about the number of workers experiencing pay problems. 

"What is it that they're trying to hide?" said Chris Aylward, the national vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Since trouble with the government's computerized pay system emerged, Public Services and Procurement Canada has said nearly 82,000 workers have experienced irregularities with their pay. 

But that number only includes workers who came forward with problems before July 1, 2016.

The government has not publicly released the number of employees who have experienced trouble after that date.

Chris Aylward, national executive vice-president for the President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says he thinks problems will continue into 2017. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

"Why can't they provide the number of cases since July?" Aylward said.

During a Phoenix update on Wednesday, the deputy minister of PSPC was asked about new numbers, but didn't offer any details. 

"It's an ongoing queue … I can't really answer the question specifically, it's an ongoing flow," said Marie Lemay, the deputy minister. 

She explained the new cases are being dealt with separately from the backlog bulk.

"The others that are coming in, we're treating them, there's a queue. But sometimes we are not treating them as fast as we will when we'll be in our steady state."

Workers who formally registered problems before July 1 have been told their issue will be dealt with by the end of October. There is no solution timeline for employees who joined the queue after that date.

Deadline doubt

While PSPC appears confident it will clear the initial backlog of cases by Oct. 31 as promised, two separate unions are questioning that claim.

Aylward said the Public Service Alliance of Canada has "absolutely no confidence" in the government's ability to meet its target date.

"I say that it's going to be pretty tough for them to meet that target," said Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. 

"But even if they can, those are only the cases that have accumulated in the system, or that were logged in the system before the end of June," Daviau added.

"What of all of these cases that have been logged since June?  A number of them [are] in really critical circumstances."

PSPC does not have a firm timeline as to when Phoenix will work as intended.

"Unfortunately we think we're going to be talking about this well into 2017," Aylward said.

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