Prison guards struggling to make ends meat. Thanks Justin.

How many people have to suffer and for how long until the PM gets off of his world tour and fixes the issues at home?

If you are not a Federal Employee nor do you know one, the Phoenix Pay issue still affects you. That is money not being spent locally, which then in turn affects local businesses and so many-many other ripples that touch everyone’s lives.

The CVP proposes that all Federal Politicians have their pay withheld until all of their own employees have their base pay fixed. Maybe then this will get resolved. Oh, and Justin, the next time you sign a contract or implement someone else’s plan… make sure you know what the paperwork says. IBM has made how much since Phoenix has been implemented?

Phoenix payroll chaos: Prison guards struggling to make ends meet.


A watchtower oversees the Kent prison complex and augments the razor wire security fence.

The prison guards who watch over some of Canada’s most dangerous criminals are the latest to see their pay lost to glitches in the federal governments new automated national payroll system.

Kent Institution corrections officer Doug Holloway was left scrambling to meet a car payment and buy groceries this week, after he didn’t get paid at all.

His previous two cheques also fell short, forcing Holloway, his wife and three of his four children his eldest has left home to go without as they waited for emergency salary advances that took several days to come.

I have my car payments scheduled with my paydays, said Holloway, whose family is still living in Grande Cache, Alta., where he worked at a federal prison before transferring to Kent three months ago.

I was catching myself thinking, do I have enough on my MasterCard so I can buy milk to have on my cereal?

The Phoenix computerized pay system, commissioned by the previous Conservative government, was implemented in February by the Liberal government. It involved replacing some 2,700 payroll specialists across the country with the automated system, run by 500 people in Miramichi, N.B.

Since then, more than 80,000 federal employees, from MPs to office workers, have complained of not being paid what they’re owed most commonly not receiving enough in benefits, overtime or pay differentials for temporary promotions. In the worst cases, some people have not been paid at all.

Holloway works as an armed guard at Kent, a maximum-security prison in the Fraser Valley that houses some of Canada’s most hardened criminals, including serial killer Robert Pickton.

When officers are doing their rounds in the actual living units, when the inmates are out, I’m up on the gun walk with a C8 rifle watching them, Holloway said. On other days, Holloway could be one of the guards among the prisoners. You’re dealing with guys that wouldn’t even bat an eye to hurt you, or stab you, or shank you, you don’t need distractions.

Derek Chin, the Pacific region president of the Union of Canadian Corrections Officers, said the new payroll system first came to corrections in February as a pilot project at seven institutions across Canada, including B.C.s medium-security Mission Institution. Pay stubs were plagued with irregularities.

In Mission they only had about 200 officers, Chin said, adding that despite the problems the system was expanded in May to cover all of the federal government’s corrections facilities, including the nine B.C. federal institutions and their 1,200 staff.

The pilot project wasn’t nearly as bad as when they started rolling it out, Chin said. It’s just a mess all around.

The union is currently involved in 40 cases in B.C. that are similar to Holloways. Seven of those cases are among Kent’s 300 officers.

Were all having pay issues in terms of being paid timely for premiums and shift differentials, overtime, Chin said. But right now that’s kind of on the back burner. I’m talking about 40 cases without a paycheque, or maybe a small fraction of a cheque.

For Holloway, the problem first came up with his last paycheque in August, when he received $597 instead of his usual net pay of between $2,200 and $2,300. Two weeks ago, his cheque was for $128  and this Wednesday, there was no pay at all.

The sole breadwinner for his family of five, Holloway said his income tax is usually taken off at the lowest rate but when he’s received emergency salary advances to top up the Phoenix shortfalls, those top-ups have calculated his income tax at the single-person rate, so he’s only been netting about $1,600 per pay period.

More critical has been the three- to four-day delay in the advances. Holloway is paying $750 in rent for his family’s home in Grande Cache and $600 for rent on an apartment in Chilliwack. He plans to move the family to Chilliwack when he can find a house he can afford.

We’ve lived paycheque to paycheque, he said. A $200 loan from his grandmother this week enabled him to avoid missing a car payment this week.

One of his twin 14-year-old sons had to stay home from school this week because he ran out of his medication.

I just don’t have the money right now, he said. I might not see (the money) until Monday.
The union, management and staff at Miramichi have sorted some cases, Chin said, but, It seems like every time there’s one fix, two more arise. Back in the day, you could just email the regional pay centre.

Chin said the guards are stuck in the same backlog facing thousands of other public servants.

We don’t really know what the other federal departments are doing. We don’t really know where we are in the queue, Chin said, arguing that the guards are a special case. A lot of officers go through PTSD, a lot of dangerous situations. The only gratifying thing is pretty much your paycheque. It’s a thankless job we have all we want to do is get paid.

Chin said Holloways specific problem likely arose through his transfer from Alberta to B.C. Somewhere in Miramichi, his file got lost, Chin said.



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