An Edmonton woman said she’s at her wit’s end after being told she owes $43,000 as a result of Phoenix-related pay errors.
Since April 2016, Sebastienne Critchley said she’s been both overpaid and underpaid after the federal public service department she works for adopted the Phoenix pay system.
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In early November, she was told she owed $43,000, which is almost double her own estimate.
“I was stunned,” Critchley said. “You’re telling me I have a $43,000 over-payment? I only earned $35,000 last year. At what point did I work for free and pay $10,000 for the privilege of doing my job?
“I have no qualms with paying back what I owe. In fact I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half chasing people down trying to find out what I owe – or trying to confirm what I owe, I should say – because I keep a fairly accurate check.”
LISTEN: Sebastienne Critchley joins 770 CHQR’s Rob Breakenridge to tell her story.
To complicate her situation, Critchley went on maternity leave in November 2016. She initially had difficulty obtaining her record of employment and said her T4 form was inaccurate.
“I’ve put in, I estimate, between 200 and 300 hours of time trying to pay this money back,” she said. “From paycheck to paycheck, I don’t know what my pay is going to be.
“This has had a very direct effect on my health, the health of my family, the health of my marriage.”
Her breaking point came on the heels of the auditor general’s Nov. 21 report examining the federal government’s adoption of the Phoenix pay system.
As of June 2017, the government owed 51,000 employees a total of $228 million because they had been underpaid, and 59,000 employees owed the government a total of $295 million because they were overpaid, according to the report.
“In our view, it will take years to fix the pay system and it will cost more than the $540 million the government has identified,” Auditor General Michael Ferguson said.
More than half of federal public servants experienced at least one error in their paycheque in the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the report.
With files from Global’s Leslie Young