New ‘ap­proach’ to Phoenix be­ing ex­am­ined

Look­ing to pri­vate sec­tor for re­place­ment

Calgary Herald - - CANADA - Terry Pedwell

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment will take “en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach” to how its em­ploy­ees get paid, the fed­eral Trea­sury Board Sec­re­tar­iat said Thurs­day, one day af­ter an­gry civil ser­vants protested the dis­as­trous Phoenix pay sys­tem out­side a fed­eral Lib­eral re­treat in Bri­tish Columbia.

In a state­ment, the depart­ment said it would seek out po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tive pay sys­tems through a pro­cure­ment process it will launch to re­place Phoenix.

The gov­ern­ment has al­ready been look­ing at a num­ber of soft­ware providers and will work with civil ser­vants and their unions in test­ing and ul­ti­mately launch­ing a re­place­ment hu­man re­sources and pay sys­tem, the state­ment said.

“The TBS team has been work­ing on pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis of avail­able ven­dors and, as part of an up­com­ing no­tice of pro­posed pro­cure­ment, will be look­ing to pri­vate sec­tor ex­per­tise to iden­tify po­ten­tial in­no­va­tive al­ter­na­tives for a new sys­tem.”

No timetable has been es­tab­lished for when test­ing might be­gin on any al­ter­na­tive sys­tem. That will be de­ter­mined as the gov­ern­ment speaks with sup­pli­ers, said Trea­sury Board Pres­i­dent Scott Bri­son.

“Part of the en­gage­ment with ven­dors is ac­tu­ally defin­ing that be­cause we have to know what is re­al­is­tic,” Bri­son said as he ar­rived in Nanaimo for Thurs­day’s meet­ings.

But Pub­lic Ser­vice Al­liance of Canada mem­bers have al­most ex­hausted their pa­tience, union pres­i­dent Chris Ayl­ward told plac­ard­wav­ing gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees Wed­nes­day.

The Lib­er­als could face con­se­quences in next fall’s fed­eral elec­tion if they don’t act more quickly, he warned: “You start show­ing re­spect to fed­eral pub­lic-sec­tor work­ers, or you will pay in Oc­to­ber of 2019.”

The Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s last bud­get in­cluded $16 mil­lion to search for an al­ter­na­tive to Phoenix, which has caused mas­sive headaches for more than half of fed­eral em­ploy­ees who have been over­paid, un­der­paid or not paid at all.

The Phoenix sys­tem, launched more than two years ago, was sup­posed to save tax­pay­ers money but is cur­rently on track to cost more than $1 bil­lion.

As of July 25, 560,000 pay files re­mained in the back­log of cases pay sys­tem op­er­a­tors have been deal­ing with. Pub­lic Ser­vices Min­is­ter Carla Qual­trough called the back­log un­ac­cept­able, but added she’s en­cour­aged to see it has been in de­cline over the past five months.

In a re­port is­sued ear­lier this year, au­di­tor gen­eral Michael Fer­gu­son blamed the Phoenix de­ba­cle on a cul­ture within gov­ern­ment of bu­reau­crats avoid­ing re­port­ing fail­ures to their su­per­vi­sors.

Find­ing an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem has been left to a “multi-dis­ci­plinary” team at Trea­sury Board un­der the di­rec­tion of the coun­try’s chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer, Alex Be­nay.

“The team will take an en­tirely dif­fer­ent ap­proach than the one that led to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Phoenix, in­clud­ing strong gov­er­nance and di­rect ac­count­abil­ity,” the state­ment said.

But that team must act fast if the gov­ern­ment is to gain back the con­fi­dence of its em­ploy­ees, said Debi Daviau, pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional In­sti­tute of the Pub­lic Ser­vice of Canada.

And al­ter­na­tive sys­tems are al­ready read­ily avail­able within gov­ern­ment that hold the po­ten­tial to be adapted to the en­tire fed­eral civil ser­vice, she added.

“We hope the gov­ern­ment will test every vi­able al­ter­na­tive, in­clud­ing adapt­ing the cor­po­rate ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tem cur­rently used at the (Canada Rev­enue Agency),” Daviau said. “Our mem­bers have al­ready waited for an al­ter­na­tive long enough.”

Roughly 55,000 em­ploy­ees at CRA and the Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency fall un­der that sys­tem, said Daviau.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Debi Daviau, right, pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional In­sti­tute of the Pub­lic Ser­vice of Canada, says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs to act fast to re­place the trou­bled Phoenix pay sys­tem if it wants to win back pub­lic ser­vants’ con­fi­dence.

Carla Qual­trough

Scott Bri­son

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