Never in the history of Canada has a sitting Gov’t been so incompetent.
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The federal government’s self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline for eliminating the backlog of Phoenix pay problems has arrived, but some public servants say they’re still going into debt to pay their bills.
Soon after the Phoenix payroll system was rolled out across the country in the spring, employees began reporting problems. The government acknowledged in July that more than 80,000 public servants had reported trouble with their pay, with the majority being underpaid. Others were overpaid or not paid at all.
Two weeks ago, Marie Lemay, the deputy minister in charge of the system, said the bulk of 80,000 cases in the backlog would be solved by today but warned some of the more complex files may not be resolved in time.
- Government falling behind in clearing Phoenix payroll backlog by Oct. 31 deadline
- Government accused of hiding full scope of fiasco
- Bureaucrat in charge of Phoenix shuffled into new role
But the largest union representing public servants says that’s not good enough.
“We still have literally thousands of public sector workers still waiting,” said Chris Aylward, the national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC). “It’s not getting fixed. It’s not getting any better.”
Global Affairs Canada employee Sabrina Arrizza said she can’t believe the “magical day” is here, yet she’s still owed $4,000 in missing pay.
‘I’ve reached the point of complete hopelessness.’– Sabrina Arrizza
“I’ve reached the point of complete hopelessness,” said Arrizza, who said she’s had to take out a line of credit to pay her bills.
“It’s extremely distressing,” she said. “I was in a better financial situation when I was a student without a job.”
Earlier this summer, Arrizza was told her file had risen to what the pay centre calls “the war room,” where cases go when compensation advisers can’t figure out how to solve them.
Managers supportive but can’t help
“It was a little complicated but I’m not sure why I’ve been left in the backlog,” said Arrizza. “I have not received a phone call. So to me, how can you even work on my case when you haven’t even called me yet to discuss it?”
Arrizza transitioned from a casual contract to a term position in May but said she wasn’t paid for seven weeks. When she finally got a cheque, it was for a much lower pay category, she said.
On top of that, Arrizza isn’t being reimbursed for dental care. She said her managers have been very supportive but haven’t been able to help solve her problem.
“It’s quite sad when it gets to the point when your managers can’t even do anything about it,” she said.
‘It should have been fixed by now’
Dean Ashby, a manager at Measurement Canada, describes himself as a “very patient guy,” but said it’s “disturbing” that he’s waited since April for as much as $18,000 he said he’s owed.
‘Unfortunately, my kids have suffered probably the most.’– Dean Ashby
“I’ve waited seven months and I think it’s time to voice my opinion now,” said Ashby from Penticton, B.C. “One hundred per cent it should have fixed by now.”
Ashby said he’s burned through his savings, and has had to cut back on his daughter’s dance lessons and his son’s go-cart racing.
“Unfortunately, my kids have suffered probably the most, because they haven’t been able to do their sports,” said Ashby.
He says he returned from an 18-month leave on April 1, then went seven pay periods without a cheque. When he finally got paid in June, “it was completely wrong,” Ashby said.
Even when the cheques started coming, they were $700 short. Ashby is in charge of nearly a dozen staff, and said he recently realized during a team meeting that he was the lowest-paid employee in the room.
“It’s unfair,” said Ashby. “I’m working and working and I’m not getting paid. You can’t do that. It’s against the law.”