‘It just gets a busy tone’

Gov­ern­ment work­ers an­gry, frus­trated, as they try to re­port Phoenix over­pay­ments

The Western Star - - CANADA -

Fed­eral gov­ern­ment work­ers who’ve been over­paid through the trou­bled Phoenix pay sys­tem are voic­ing frus­tra­tion with a plan to re­port the over­pay­ments in or­der to avoid costly tax im­pli­ca­tions.

Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada has given civil ser­vants un­til Jan. 31 to de­clare over­pay­ments.

Un­der the plan, em­ploy­ees who re­port by the dead­line will only have to pay the net amount they re­ceived.

Those who don’t de­clare the over­pay­ment on time will have to re­pay the gross over­pay­ment, in­clud­ing tax and other de­ducted amounts that they never ac­tu­ally re­ceived, which for some could add up to thou­sands of dol­lars.

But many of those civil ser­vants have com­plained of busy sig­nals or be­ing put on hold in­def­i­nitely when call­ing the Phoenix pay cen­tre.

One woman, who iden­ti­fied her­self as Jo JJ, posted a video on YouTube Wed­nes­day of her try­ing to call the cen­tre to re­port what she de­scribed as a “small over­pay­ment” that pre­dated the 2017 tax year.

“I’ve been try­ing to call this num­ber for days — about a week al­ready,” she said, hold­ing her cell­phone’s speaker to the cam­era as it beeped.

“As you can hear, it just gets a busy tone and it just hangs up. You can’t even get through to a voice mail, can’t leave a mes­sage, noth­ing.”

Pub­lic Ser­vices ac­knowl­edged the cen­tre is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing higher-than-nor­mal call vol­umes as the dead­line ap­proaches and rec­om­mends em­ploy­ees fill out an on­line form in­stead.

Other civil ser­vants com­plained that de­duc­tions were al­ready be­ing taken from their pay­cheques for over­pay­ments, even if they didn’t re­ceive any ex­tra pay or had al­ready paid money back.

“I can’t get an ex­pla­na­tion why they are tak­ing the money or how much they think I owe,” Lindsey Welsh wrote in a Face­book mes­sage.

“I am a sin­gle mom so if I had re­ceived any ex­tra monies I would def­i­nitely no­tice.”

More than half of all fed­eral civil ser­vants — about 180,000 work­ers — have re­ported be­ing over­paid, un­der­paid or not paid at all since the Phoenix pay sys­tem went live nearly two years ago.

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