Phoenix pay system: New cases emerge as government approaches ‘critical mass’ of complaints

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

The number of complaints related to the federal government’s beleaguered Phoenix pay system is still rising, according to officials, but it should reach a “critical mass” in the coming month and then start to diminish.

Deputy Minister of Public Works and Government Services Marie Lemay provided an update on the situation on Thursday in Ottawa, telling reporters that her department expected to see the numbers go up as more public servants reach out via call centres and an online form.

READ MORE: Meltdown of public service pay system blamed on ‘learning curve’

Two weeks ago, Lemay set out a timeline for dealing with the massive backlog of case files bungled by Phoenix. She promised that by Oct. 31, things would be mostly back to normal and everyone should have the money they are owed.

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That timeline is still in place, she confirmed Thursday.

WATCH BELOW: More troubles with Phoenix system, federal employees still waiting for pay on July 27

Click to play video: 'More troubles with Phoenix pay system, federal employees still waiting to get paid'
More troubles with Phoenix pay system, federal employees still waiting to get paid

The Phoenix system, designed by IBM and rolled out in February, has been encountering issues since its launch. Well over 80,000 of Canada’s nearly 300,000 federal public servants have encountered problems, including missing money, late deposits and in some cases, a complete lack of any payment at all.

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Numbers still increasing

The government identified three priority groups, which are being handled in succession.

The first priority group, which is made up of employees who have not received any pay, grew by 274 new cases since the last update on July 28. Most of those new complaints will be addressed within two pay periods (one month), Lemay said.

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There are also still a few hundred more ‘no pay’ files languishing in the system from older complaints that have yet to be resolved.

In the second priority group, which includes people whose pay is at risk of disruption as they go on leave, there were around 1,100 files open in mid-July. That number eventually grew to 2,646. Just under half, 1,182, have now been resolved.

READ MORE: How did this all start, and how did the Phoenix problems get so bad? 

The third priority group, which is basically everyone else experiencing issues, has seen the number of cases drop from 81,997 on July 18 to 76,951 today.

The number will start to drop much faster come September, Lemay promised, as new pay centres in Gatineau, Winnipeg, Shawinigan and Montreal become fully staffed.

The original government pay centre in Miramichi, NB, is still operating as well, she confirmed, along with a ‘triage’ call centre in Toronto.

Launch of claims process

Lemay said a formal process will be launched sometime in September for employees who want to seek compensation from Ottawa for losses suffered as a result of the Phoenix meltdown. This could include penalties for late mortgage payments or student loan payments.

Employees who are concerned about “potential complications” with their tax filings can consult the Canada Revenue Agency’s website for guidance on how to proceed, Lemay added.

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“Our commitment is to resolve employees’ pay issue,” she re-iterated. “We want to ensure that the problems we are solving today don’t reappear down the road.”

Lemay also addressed concerns from employees that they will face reprisals if they report their pay problems to the media or to their supervisors.

“Your pay is your right, and no one should feel intimidated about voicing their rights,” she said.

Here are the three priority groups, as outlined by the government:

  • First priority: People who have had no pay at all. Most were expected to be paid yesterday, Aug. 10.
  • Second priority: People whose pay is at risk of disruption, including those going on maternity leave, long-term disability leave, or retiring. They will see their files handled within four to six weeks.
  • Third priority: People who are owed overtime or who have seen their employment terminated will be processed by the end of September. Those who have been overpaid, been on planned leave without pay, are owed deductions or benefits, or who have been promoted will have their files handled by the end of October.

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