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The Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, N.B. (Ron Ward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, N.B. (Ron Ward/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Federal civil servant pay backlog likely won’t be fixed this month Add to ...

The federal government is warning that it is probably going to miss its self-imposed Oct. 31 deadline to resolve all problems related to its new Phoenix payroll system, leaving a potential 15,000 public servants waiting for compensation.

Marie Lemay, deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said more than 51,000 of about 80,000 cases – or 62 per cent – had been cleared as of Wednesday.

“We are tracking a bit behind our projected schedule,” Ms. Lemay told reporters at a technical briefing in Ottawa. “This is because of the complexity of the files that we’re currently handling. Increasingly, we’re seeing that many of the cases left in the backlog are very complicated and require time-consuming manual calculations.”

Ms. Lemay said there could be as many as 15,000 outstanding cases after Oct. 31, some of which date back several years, before Phoenix was even in place. She said those cases should be resolved within one to two pay periods after the original deadline.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said it saw this problem coming back in the summer.

“When they came out and said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to do this by Oct. 31,’ we knew back in July that wasn’t realistic,” PSAC vice-president Chris Aylward said. “I believe we’re going to talk about this well into 2017.”

The government imposed the Oct. 31 deadline on itself in July, when it was revealed that nearly a third of the 300,000 public servants paid through Phoenix had experienced pay problems since the system went into operation in February. More cases have continued to emerge since then.

On Wednesday, Ms. Lemay said 79 new cases of public servants who did not get paid properly have come up in the past two weeks; she said those individuals will be paid by the next payday at the latest. Another 894 people facing pay problems related to leave also came forward. Ms. Lemay said those cases should be resolved within six weeks.

Ms . Lemay said any pay problems beyond Oct. 31 will probably concern public servants waiting on supplementary pay, such as acting pay and overtime. She assured public servants that government compensation advisers are working tirelessly to reach the deadline.

“These individuals have regularly been working evenings, weekends, holidays. Everyone is fully committed to the task at hand.”

In addition to the central pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., the government has opened temporary pay offices in Gatineau, Montreal, Shawinigan, Que., and Winnipeg, as well as a Toronto call centre where employees “triage” calls from public servants. Ms. Lemay said all of the staff at the temporary centres will remain in place until the government reaches a “steady state” where Phoenix is running smoothly.

In the meantime, the Treasury Board has opened a claims office to handle the reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, such as late-payment fees, incurred by public servants as a result of Phoenix pay problems. Alfred Tsang, who heads up the office, said that 92 applications for reimbursement had been received as of last Friday, including 20 requests amounting to more than $500 each.

Ms. Lemay said the price tag to fix the Phoenix system is set to ring in at about $50-million, excluding the costs associated with reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses.

Wednesday’s technical briefing comes one week after Rosanna Di Paola, Public Services and Procurement Canada’s associate assistant deputy minister, was shuffled into another role at the department. Ms. Lemay played down Ms. Di Paola’s move, saying she is still working on the Phoenix file as special adviser in her office.

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