Home / Thoook News / Public servants outside Ottawa more often affected by Phoenix pay fiasco: documents

Public servants outside Ottawa more often affected by Phoenix pay fiasco: documents

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OTTAWA — Wonky or missing paycheques have affected 14 out of every 15 federal public servants working in New Brunswick, the province where the government’s main pay centre handles 95 per cent of public servants’ pay, new data suggest. 

The Phoenix fiasco has reached tens of thousands of people across the country, and even outside of Canada. Issues stemming from the government’s botched implementation of the new pay system go far beyond the Ottawa bubble, according to the Post’s analysis of documents tabled in the House of Commons this week.

In fact, you’re more likely to experience payment woes working for the feds from Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan, where the number of people affected is equivalent to 90 per cent of the workforce, than you are toiling away in Ontario or Quebec, where that number is closer to 70 per cent. 

Since the Liberal government took power, 193,039 public servants have been affected by problems with Phoenix, according to totals provided by government departments and agencies in response to a written question from New Democrat member of Parliament Karine Trudel. That number reflects 73.4 per cent of the 262,696 people (minus a few security agencies, which do not report staffing numbers) the government says it employed as of March 2017.

The number is also notably higher than Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s estimation of about 150,000, in a highly-critical report released in November. At that time, he estimated the costs of stabilizing the system had already exceeded $600 million. 

The data does not include turnover, so there could be some variance in the numbers: for example, if one employee had problems with Phoenix, quit, then was replaced by another person who then also experienced issues. 

Overall, more than a third of the federal employees who have reported issues with their paycheques are located outside of Canada’s two most populous provinces, Ontario and Quebec, where a whopping 125,067 people are affected. 

New Brunswick is the worst off, with 93.8 per cent of 8,350 federal public servants experiencing problems. In second place is Saskatchewan, where 92.4 per cent of 5,815 people are affected. Coming in third place is Nova Scotia, where 90.1 per cent of 10,095 employees reported snags. 

In Alberta and British Columbia, the provinces with the most public servants outside of Ontario and Quebec, affected are 82.8 per cent of 14,914 employees and 78 per cent of 22,375 employees respectively. 

In P.E.I., the equivalent of 70.5 per cent of a 3,147-person workforce was affected; in Newfoundland and Labrador, it was 77.3 per cent of 4,782; and in Manitoba, which saw the least-alarming ratio, it was only 64.1 per cent — still almost two-thirds —of 10,084 employees. 

Bizarrely, in the territories, the government reports more people have had issues with Phoenix than are actually listed as federal public servants. For example, in the Northwest Territories, the government says it has 493 employees but that 590 people were affected by pay. In Nunavut, the numbers are 283 and 373, and in the Yukon, 349 and 514. A little more than 6,500 employees are listed with “unknown” locations on the government’s regional breakdown of public servants, so along with turnover, this could help explain the discrepancy. 

Finally, almost a thousand people employed by Canada outside the country, likely those working for Global Affairs Canada’s network of missions abroad, have also been hit by some kind of Phoenix issue.

As explained by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, a union that represents more than 170,000 government employees, there’s a big range of problems people may be encountering: no compensation for shift work, overtime being recorded or paid improperly, income taxes being calculated incorrectly, issues accessing insurance, delays in pension payments, or employees getting overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all. 

According to the PSAC, problems include understaffing at the main pay centre in Miramichi, N.B., a lack of training and issues with the Phoenix software itself, which the government procured from IBM Canada. 

The location of the pay centre has also been questioned. The previous Conservative government had closed a federal office in Miramichi that handled the axed long gun registry, and decided to open a new consolidated payment centre there. But most of the government’s payroll experts, previously housed in departments and agencies and many of them in the national capital region, opted not to move to New Brunswick.

Conservatives scheduled an initial rollout for several departments in February 2016. Then, despite early problems, the nascent Liberal government decided to go ahead with a second, more-expansive phase a few months after that. 

Still, the Liberals have blamed the Conservatives for setting them up to fail. As part of the response to Trudel’s question, Public Services and Procurement Canada said that the previous government acted “irresponsibly” and “rushed the implementation.”

The ongoing public service pay problems are completely unacceptable. Our government is doing everything it can to resolve pay issues as quickly as possible,” the response, tabled Monday, said.

It is an issue likely to haunt them for years to come, as Ferguson predicted, and will remain present in the lead-up to the next federal election in 2019. 

• Email: mdsmith@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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