Here we go again: The liberals, like all of the other parties, have been only telling part of the truth and unless the media or unions dig it up, then they will carry on with their 1/2 truths.
It’s time for honest change. It’s time for the CVP.
Deadline for clearing Phoenix backlog only applies to half of government departments.
The senior bureaucrat overseeing the federal government’s botched payroll system confirmed Wednesday that not all pay problems affecting Canada’s public servants will be resolved by the promised Oct. 31 deadline.
Marie Lemay, Public Services’ deputy minister, insisted the government is on track to clear the backlog of 82,000 cases created by the Phoenix pay system that were sent by 46 federal departments for processing to the pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., by officials’ self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline.
“We’re really on target,” she told reporters during a briefing Wednesday. “The next month is a big month, but we believe we are on target. … We believe we will clear the backlog for the 31st.”
But the deadline only applies to the 46 departments that were sending their payroll processing to Miramichi, which covers about 191,000 employees and has 550 compensation advisers.
Lemay was unable to say what happens to employees facing Phoenix foulups who work for 55 other departments that manage their own compensation and don’t use Miramichi.
Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service, questions whether the Oct. 31 deadline will be met.
She said the department is “playing with numbers.” She said most public servants had the impression that all problems would be resolved by Oct. 31 and not just those from 46 departments received before the end of June.
“What hasn’t come out before is the difference between the cases reported as backlog as of the end of the June and the new cases that have come in,” she said.
“I don’t see them meeting their deadline, but I hope they do,” said Daviau. “I think they are painting a very rosy picture and the facts suggest it is not as rosy as they would have you believe.”
The Phoenix pay system was rolled out to 300,000 public servants working in 101 departments and agencies in two waves — one in February, the second in April. From the start, employees began reporting pay problems, which the government downplayed as the growing pains of a new system until July, when it acknowledged that thousands of employees had been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.
That’s when the department revealed that as of the end of June that Miramichi alone had a backlog of 82,000 people with pay problems.
Public Services opened a temporary pay centre in Gatineau, a new call centre and several other offices, and it recruited 200 temporary pay advisers to clear the backlog so Miramichi could focus on the flow of regular pay transactions.
The other 55 departments have 900 payroll staff who are managing their pay problems. For example, Statistics Canada’s pay advisers informed employees this week that it hoped to resolve most problems by Oct. 31 but that issues dealing with extra pay for promotions or acting positions won’t be fixed until the end of November.
Lemay said the number of problems facing employees in the other departments don’t appear to be as large or as complex as those in departments using Miramichi, partly because there are fewer employees.
“The rest of the departments that have their own compensation advisers so … from the information that we’ve gathered in talking to them, they are having the same issues that everybody is having in terms of getting comfortable with the system … but the backlog as such doesn’t seem to be of the nature of ours,” she said.
To meet the looming month-end deadline, Public Services would have to clear a backlog of more than 43,772 cases. It has cleared some 38,228 cases since it began tackling the backlog of 82,000 cases in July.
Lemay said the number of new cases keeps declining, with 41 new cases of public servants not getting paid Wednesday. They are the government’s priority and they are supposed to be paid this week or by the next pay day.
Another 173 people who reported pay problems this week linked to going on leave, leaving the public service or retiring, are considered Priority 2 cases whose problems should be addressed within six weeks.
But some public servants say a shadow — or undeclared — backlog has been growing at Miramichi since July. They say the pay centre is unable to deal with the volume within the promised 20 days in its service standard.
Lemay admitted the pay centre is working more slowly than expected and has been unable to meet its service standards. She said that would improve once the backlog is cleared and the 200 extra pay advisers hired to work on the backlog can be redeployed to help Miramichi.
“There are people in the queue and we’re not being able to meet the service standards that we had prior to Phoenix in terms of treatment, but that part, remember that the minute that we’re done with the backlog on, on Oct. 31, we’ve got 200 people, more than 200 people, that are actually going to be helping us to get to that steady state.”
Some argue that relying on these temporary compensation advisers hired to clear the backlog raises questions whether they will be needed permanently to handle the day-to-day volume.
The Treasury Board’s new claims office, meanwhile, is up and running to reimburse the out-of-pocket expenses of public servants who have faced financial hardship. Treasury Board officials confirmed they had received 52 claims so far, totalling about $30,400. Of the 52 claims, 12 were for out-of-pocket expenses exceeding $500 and 40 were for less than $500.
Lemay also said that IBM, the technology giant that built Phoenix, has been a “good partner” and the government has no plans to take any court action over the foul-ups like the government in Queensland, Australia, did over a payroll project it hired IBM to do.
“We have no reason to sue IBM right now,” Lemay said. “IBM is respecting its contract. They have been good partners. When we find issues that have to be corrected, they’re right there. They’re correcting it.”
Lemay said the Queensland case was getting underway as the PSPC went to tender for a contractor to build its pay system. The Australian lawsuit was resolved earlier this year in IBM’s favour.