Federal employees from Mountain Institution, Kent Institution and the Agassiz Research and Development Centre rallied on Highway 9 in February to show their frustration with the Phoenix pay system. Many still haven’t seen repayments after being over and underpaid – or in some cases, not paid at all. Nina Grossman/The Observer

Local federal employees still waiting for payment, frustrations continue

Compensation following Phoenix pay system disaster taking too long, say unions

Many federal employees at local institutions are still out thousands of dollars as a result of the disastrous Phoenix pay system that has overpaid, underpaid and generally muddled the paycheques of thousands of government workers across the country.

Employees of Kent and Mountain institutions in the District of Kent are no exception.

READ: Federal workers rally for immediate action on Phoenix pay system

Months after the federal government released a budget allocating more than $400 million over six years to repair damage caused by Phoenix and another $16 million over two years to replace it, hundreds of local employees are still out thousands of dollars that never made it on to their paycheques.

Kirsty Havard, the regional vice president for the Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE) – a local component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) that oversees unions at Kent and Mountain institutions – said she hasn’t heard of any payments being made to workers.

“In terms of on the ground – people seeing any satisfaction – nothing’s really changed all that much,” she said. “I think there’s still quite a bit of disillusionment. I guess they’re happy that they are acknowledging that it’s not working and they’re going to bring about change, but obviously it can’t come quickly enough.”

READ: Auditor general says unleashed bureaucrats bungled Phoenix, costing millions

Havard believes that one issue is a lack of resources allocated to fixing individual pay problems.

In December, Corrections Services Canada (CSC) allocated staff to a pay service unit created specifically to take direct action on Phoenix pay issues within CSC. But with only 37 resources handling pay issues for thousands of workers, resolutions may take some time – and according to Havard, it’s already been too long.

“We have been pressuring CSC (Correctional Service Canada) to do more but they’re saying, ‘We’re doing all we can do,’ ” Havard said. “It’s very complicated [and] the current system can’t handle it.”

“Personally, I don’t feel the departments themselves are doing enough. But, once again, the government will maybe need to transfer more funds so we can see people’s pay actually corrected.”

Across Canada, 200,000 workers have been impacted by the pay system introduced in 2016.

PSAC recently stated that talks with the federal government – aimed at compensating affected employees – have stalled, and the civil service union is now asking the prime minister to take action.

READ: Union calls on prime minister to step into ‘stalled’ Phoenix compensation talks

So far PSAC has secured compensation for out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the pay system and has forced the government to expand access to emergency pay, but the union says members should be compensated not only for financial losses, but for stress and time spent dealing with pay issues.

Havard said one small victory was made in March, when the government agreed to halt the recovery of overpayment from employees until all money owed to them had been paid out and they had received three consecutive periods of correct pay.

But PSAC reported on its website a few weeks later that some members were still having their salaries clawed back before the new criteria was met.

“It’s very disappointing that the government has been unable to deliver on this commitment with the speed and urgency the situation requires,” stated PSAC national president Robyn Benson in a press release.

RELATED: Liberals vow to replace Phoenix pay system

Anthony Friesen, the local PSAC president for the agriculture union at the Agassiz Research and Development Centre, says some employees have had pay issues with things like their medical service plan resolved, but, for the most part, employees are still waiting, and have no faith left in the process.

“At this point there’s really no confidence that they’re getting the numbers right,” he said of employees who received letters of overpayment up to $1,000. “We still can’t really talk to anybody in terms of getting updates on some of the longer term and more complex pay issues that have been dragging on – in some cases for over two years.”

Friesen said he – and other employees – have spent valuable time going over pay stubs and dealing with the issues caused by the pay system.

“It affects work, it affects morale and it’s just been dragging on for far too long.”

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