PM ad­mits govern­ment failed em­ploy­ees with new pay­roll sys­tem

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NATIONAL NEWS - Terry Ped­well

OT­TAWA — The fed­eral govern­ment failed its em­ploy­ees when it didn’t prop­erly heed warn­ing signs about its prob­lem-plagued Phoenix pay sys­tem be­fore rolling it out al­most a year ago, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ad­mit­ted Thurs­day.

“i’ll ad­mit it,” Trudeau told a frus­trated civil ser­vant as he fielded ques­tions from the pub­lic dur­ing the first ma­jor event of a cross-canada whis­tle-stop tour in Kingston, Ont.

“This govern­ment ... didn’t pay enough at­ten­tion to the chal­lenges and the warn­ing signs on the tran­si­tion we were over­see­ing.”

added the prime min­is­ter: “We are work­ing ex­tremely hard to fix this.”

ear­lier Thurs­day, the union that rep­re­sents fed­eral sci­en­tists and other pro­fes­sion­als urged the govern­ment to set up a sep­a­rate pay sys­tem for those work­ers short­changed by the on­go­ing prob­lems with Phoenix.

Civil ser­vants have run out of pa­tience and the govern­ment needs to in­tro­duce a tem­po­rary sys­tem to ease the bur­den on those most af­fected by the de­ba­cle, said debi daviau, pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional in­sti­tute of the Pub­lic ser­vice of Canada.

“Our mem­bers have waited far too long, and we’ve heard far too many hor­ror sto­ries,” daviau told a news con­fer­ence in Ot­tawa.

“em­ploy­ees who are strug­gling with sub­stan­tially re­duced pay — or no pay at all — should be paid through a sep­a­rate but par­al­lel sys­tem un­til the prob­lems with Phoenix are fixed and they can be rein­te­grated into the sys­tem.”

The govern­ment has said it con­tin­ues to strug­gle with a back­log of about 8,000 cases of em­ploy­ees who have re­ceived ei­ther too much or too lit­tle sup­ple­men­tal pay such as over­time — a num­ber Trudeau called “8,000 too many.”

The back­log at one point mid­way through 2016 reached roughly 82,000 cases, in­clud­ing at the time sev­eral hun­dred em­ploy­ees who had re­ceived no pay at all — in some cases for months.

in pro­vid­ing its lat­est up­date on the pay prob­lems this week, Pub­lic ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada stopped of­fer­ing a timetable for when the sys­tem would be fully re­paired.

The deputy min­is­ter in charge of deal­ing with the sys­tem’s fail­ures also pre­dicted that it’s un­likely any sin­gle per­son will be held ac­count­able for the pay sys­tem prob­lems.

“some­body needs to go to jail,” one wo­man told Trudeau in Kingston. The prime min­is­ter didn’t di­rectly re­spond to the state­ment, but in­stead re­peated that his govern­ment would re­dou­ble ef­forts to fix the sys­tem.

Pub­lic ser­vices Min­is­ter Judy Foote also didn’t re­spond di­rectly to the union’s call for a par­al­lel, tem­po­rary pay sys­tem, say­ing only that the govern­ment wel­comed the pro­pos­als. nor did she take full own­er­ship of the de­ba­cle on be­half of the lib­eral govern­ment, call­ing it an “in­her­ited” prob­lem.

“ev­ery em­ployee” can re­ceive emer­gency salary ad­vances for miss­ing pay, Foote said in an email from her of­fice. To date, 904 em­ploy­ees in her de­part­ment have re­ceived 2,612 emer­gency salary ad­vances, she added.

“emer­gency salary ad­vances are not re­cov­ered un­til an em­ployee has re­ceived his or her reg­u­lar salary as well as the full amount they were owed.”

But only those who have not been paid at all qual­ify for the emer­gency pay­cheques, said daviau. em­ploy­ees who’ve been short­changed on over­time or other sup­ple­men­tal pay are fall­ing be­tween the cracks, she said.

The govern­ment also ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day that, while it fo­cuses on clear­ing the back­log, it has been un­able to meet its 20-day stan­dard dead­line for new, in­com­ing pay changes and re­quests, re­sult­ing in many em­ploy­ees wait­ing for up to three months to re­ceive sup­ple­men­tal pay.

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