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This article was published 23/2/2018 (1305 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — The largest federal public service union is calling on Manitoba municipalities to pressure Ottawa to fix the disastrous Phoenix pay system, after documents revealed two-thirds of federal workers in the province have pay issues.
"It’s time for the communities to step up and call on the government to fix this as well, because the impact is felt everywhere," said Marianne Hladun, Prairies vice-president for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
She was reacting to documents tabled in Parliament that show 6,464 Manitobans who are employed by federal agencies and departments are being underpaid or overpaid, or have had problems with their benefits. That accounts for 64 per cent of the 10,087 federal civil servants in the province.
"They are not putting anything into the economy. They’re not buying a new car… they’re not putting their kids in hockey camp. They’re not doing these things because they’re not getting what they’re owed."
Hladun wouldn’t give specifics, but said "basically every single workplace that is paid through Phoenix is experiencing problems."
Federal entities in Winnipeg include the Canadian Grain Commission, the National Microbiology Laboratory and Transport Canada. Manitoba houses four major agriculture research hubs.
Hladun believes employees who aren’t being paid are the government’s priority. She said some employees in acting positions, and those who worked overtime, have gone a year without top-up pay. She said some workers have been forced to move into cheaper apartments. Others are dealing with overpayments that will push them into another tax bracket.
Ottawa has offered to rectify tax issues and compensate employees for accounting fees (and even loans in some cases), although some workers say the system for receiving compensation is tough to navigate.
As a result, Hladun said, Prairie public servants have forgone simple activities: "a family vacation, going out to a movie and pizza with the kids — because they’re just not sure."
She said workers in Churchill face skyrocketing living costs and have unstable bank accounts.
Hladun said other towns could follow the lead of officials in Prince Albert, Sask. Last September, Prince Albert’s city council voted to write to Ottawa about the Phoenix pay system, saying it caused negative spinoffs for local businesses.
A staggering 92 per cent of federal employees in Saskatchewan have endured problems with their paycheques.
"We usually don’t interfere with other governments’ business, but this is affecting the economic benefits of our community," Mayor Greg Dionne told the Prince Albert Daily Herald at the time.
The former Harper government purchased and launched Phoenix, while the Trudeau government expanded it, with the intention of centralizing payments for a quarter-million federal employees. An audit estimated it has instead caused problems that will cost $1 billion.
Hladun said PSAC and other unions have offered Ottawa "advice and support," but didn’t give specifics.
Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough’s office said Thursday stabilizing Phoenix "remains our top priority," and they’re looking at "longer-term options" that may replace the system.
"The problems faced by government employees as a result of the Phoenix pay system are totally unacceptable and our government is doing everything it can to resolve pay issues as quickly as possible," Ashley Michnowski wrote.
"We continue to work closely and collaboratively with public sector unions, and we take any suggestion that might help limit the financial hardship faced by our employees very seriously."