Phoenix pay queue grows by 200,000 transactions, unknown number of public servants affected

Issues over issues and the snowball continues. The one thing not being reported “yet”, is that everyone who has received emergency pay, when their pay is fixed, it’s not fixed. So, let’s say that an employee receives $10,000 in emergency pay over the many months, once their pay is put into the system, they get EVERYTHING that they didn’t receive, as if the emergency pay never happened. Now the employee has been overpaid and many months down the road, the Gov’t comes looking for their money back. But remember, if it isn’t all paid back by December 31st, that $10,000 was taxable income and no deductions were taken off first.

We have had several reports of employees receiving emails from the pay system that they need to contact the pay centre to repay their advancements. Once they call, the person on the phone tells them that they are not on the list. The left hand doesn’t even know what it’s doing, let alone what the right hand is doing.

The Phoenix system is being run by a bunch of buffoons.


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The senior bureaucrat overseeing the effort to fix the federal government’s Phoenix pay system says another 200,000 transactions have piled up in the queue since July.

Marie Lemay, Public Services’ deputy minister, said these transactions are on top of the thousands of outstanding pay issues, affecting 82,000 public servants, that comprised the government’s original, pre-July backlog.

The department has whittled that backlog down to 18,000 people.

What the government did not reveal during a briefing Wednesday is how many public servants are affected by the newly accrued 200,000 transactions that are waiting to be processed.

Lemay said the rollout of the new Phoenix pay system dramatically slowed down pay processing over the summer as employees and compensation advisers became accustomed to the new system, which has been riddled with glitches and problems that are still being ironed out.

 

“Our earlier slowdown caused the number of transactions in the system to expand so that we now have more than two months of additional work to process. This is over and above the new transactions that are entering the system,” Lemay said.

Lemay wouldn’t set a target day for clearing the queue but said she was confident that processing time will speed up and that employees will be paid within the department’s “service standards” of 20 days.

“Over the next several months, we will return to normal processing times. At that point, we will be consistently meeting our service standards, and employees will see transactions processed more quickly.”

There has been much speculation about size of the queue waiting to be processed by the pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., a pile that unions argue has been growing steadily since July 1. The department has resisted calling those cases a backlog and this is first time it has revealed the size of the queue.

Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said counting transactions versus people was “apples and oranges.”

“It doesn’t provide helpful analysis on the magnitude of the problem and it doesn’t matter, because the magnitude is horrendous. Every problem is critical and should be managed ASAP,” she said. “I can tell you, it wouldn’t surprise me if those 200,000 transactions are 200,000 people affected by Phoenix since July.”

The 200,000 transactions in the queue come from 46 departments that rely on Miramichi for pay services. The other 55 departments manage their own compensation with in-house pay advisers and have also faced Phoenix glitches. It remains unclear if they have a queue of cases waiting to be processed, further muddying the full scope of the problems.

With Phoenix, Lemay said the Miramichi pay centre receives about 80,000 new pay requests every month from the 46 departments it serves. Ideally, this workload should be handled cleared within the department’s service standard of processing transactions within 20 days.

But Lemay said processing speed “dropped sharply” after the Phoenix rollout in April. In May, only 40,000 transactions were handled. The hiring of more than 200 compensation advisers and employees getting used to the system, boosted processing to about 100,000 transactions a month in September and October.

Now that the department is churning out more files than it brings in, Lemay said the 200,000 files in the queue should start disappearing. She said all these transactions were entered directly into Phoenix so need less manual intervention, which means the queue should disappear faster than the original backlog.

The department, however, is still slow when it comes to meeting its service standards. She said it has only turned files around within its service standard about 20 to 30 per cent of the time.

Wednesday’s was the first briefing since the department confirmed it missed its Oct. 31 deadline to clear the backlog of pay problems for more than 82,000 public servants.

Lemay said the remaining 18,000 cases from that backlog pre-date Phoenix. They are several years old and require many “time-consuming calculations.”

She said the department had made these a priority so they can be done by the end of end of year to minimize the tax implications for employees.

The department has steered clear of setting any deadlines for clearing files or fixing Phoenix but a big looming deadline is year end when Phoenix has to churn out T-4 slips for 300,000 employees.

The department said T-4 slips will be issued but all fixes may not have been completed and could requirement adjustments in the next year.

The backlog cases are now handled by a dedicated team in Miramichi and all the other compensation advisers, including those temporarily hired at the various satellite offices, are handling regular pay transactions.

Reference

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