Scrap dis­as­trous Phoenix pay sys­tem, union head urges

The News (New Glasgow) - - CANADA -

Give us a year, and we’ll built a work­ing re­place­ment for the trouble-plagued Phoenix pay sys­tem, one of the coun­try’s big­gest civil ser­vice unions told the Trudeau Liberals on Tues­day.

Tired of months of re­peated prom­ises that the sys­tem’s short­com­ings would be fixed soon, the Pro­fes­sional In­sti­tute of the Pub­lic Ser­vice of Canada (PIPSC) wants the gov­ern­ment to scrap the sys­tem and start over al­most from scratch.

“Af­ter nearly two years of prob­lems with IBM’s Phoenix pay sys­tem, our mem­bers have lost con­fi­dence in the prom­ise of fix­ing Phoenix,” union pres­i­dent Debi Daviau said Tues­day.

“De­spite all ef­forts to fix Phoenix, the num­ber of open cases of pay prob­lems has grown to 330,000 as of Oc­to­ber 2017 — with no end in sight,” said Daviau. “Enough is enough.”

Daviau said the gov­ern­ment’s own IT pro­fes­sion­als are more than ca­pa­ble of build­ing a new sys­tem to end the pay cri­sis that has gripped fed­eral em­ploy­ees since Phoenix was launched in April 2016.

It should take roughly a year to build and prop­erly test a new sys­tem, based on Or­a­cle’s Peo­pleSoft hu­man re­sources man­age­ment soft­ware, Daviau told a news con­fer­ence, al­though she could not pro­vide a cost es­ti­mate for the project.

Shortly af­ter Phoenix went on­line, thou­sands of civil ser­vants be­gan re­port­ing that they had been un­der­paid, over­paid or not paid at all — and in many cases, the prob­lems ex­tended over months.

The au­to­mated sys­tem, de­signed to stream­line gov­ern­ment’s an­ti­quated pay sys­tem, was sup­posed to save Ot­tawa about $70 mil­lion a year. In­stead, the gov­ern­ment has ear­marked hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to fix it, even as a back­log of prob­lem cases grows larger.

Over the week­end, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the pay sys­tem said she could not guar­an­tee the ul­ti­mate cost of rec­ti­fy­ing the prob­lems wouldn’t reach $1 bil­lion.

When asked whether the cost to fix the pub­lic ser­vice pay sys­tem could reach that amount, Pub­lic Ser­vices Min­is­ter Carla Qual­trough told CTV’s Ques­tion Pe­riod “I hope not,” but of­fered no as­sur­ances about the ul­ti­mate price tag.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the Trea­sury Board of Canada is­sued a no­tice that it was planning to con­tract Or­a­cle Canada — the com­pany that pro­duced the soft­ware at the core of the Phoenix sys­tem — to as­sess the sys­tem in hopes of sta­bi­liz­ing it.

The $2 mil­lion sole-source con­tract was for a pe­riod of six months, end­ing March 31, 2018. The Se­nate has al­ready set out to find a re­place­ment sys­tem to pay its own em­ploy­ees.

But Daviau said she ex­pected any pri­vate-sec­tor so­lu­tion the Se­nate comes up with ei­ther won’t work or can’t be ex­panded to han­dle the of­ten com­pli­cated pay files of more than 300,000 civil ser­vants spread over dozens of de­part­ments and agen­cies.

PIPSC, which rep­re­sents over 50,000 fed­eral gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees, is propos­ing par­al­lel pro­cesses to deal with the im­me­di­ate pay cri­sis. First, the union urged the gov­ern­ment to hire more pay­roll em­ploy­ees to help civil ser­vants who are fac­ing prob­lems nav­i­gate the Phoenix maze un­til a new sys­tem is up and run­ning.

In the mean­time, IT pro­fes­sion­als who are mem­bers of PIPSC could be tasked to build an in-house re­place­ment, the union said.

CP PHOTO

Debi Daviau, pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional In­sti­tute of the Pub­lic Ser­vice of Canada, and Stephane Aubry, vice pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional In­sti­tute of the Pub­lic Ser­vice of Canada, hold a news con­fer­ence about the Phoenix pay sys­tem in Ot­tawa on Tues­day.

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