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Over 193,000 federal workers affected by Phoenix pay system

Public servants protest over problems with the Phoenix pay system outside the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council in Ottawa on October 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The number of federal public servants who have been affected by the Phoenix pay system debacle is fast approaching 200,000, with more than 193,000 workers caught up in the mess as of the end of November 2017.

A detailed breakdown of the numbers, including an overview of how many public servants have been affected in each province and territory, was provided for the first time this week in documents tabled in the House of Commons.

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The NDP’s Karine Trudel requested the numbers last fall, seeking a precise tally of public servants “affected financially by the Phoenix pay system between December 1, 2015 and November 21, 2017.”

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For departments and agencies covered by Public Services and Procurement Canada’s (PSPC) pay centre, the answer was 184,252 public servants.

That’s close to the approximate number (180,000) reported recently by officials at PSPC, and it includes non-active workers who may have recently retired, or who have been on leave without pay.

But an additional 8,787 public servants have also apparently been affected financially by Phoenix in nearly 20 other departments, regulatory bodies and agencies that are not covered by the PSPC pay centre.

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These include Statistics Canada, which reported 2,934 workers had been touched by the Phoenix problems, and Transport Canada, where another 3,251 workers were affected. At the Canadian Space Agency, there were another 341.

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Once those extra people are added in, the documents indicate that over 193,000 public servants at the federal level were affected financially by Phoenix between Dec. 1, 2015, and Nov. 21, 2017.

In total, the federal government employs approximately 300,000 public-sector workers. The Phoenix pay system launched in early 2016, and almost immediately encountered major issues, leading to many of those workers being overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all.

The unions representing federal public servants have called for the system to be scrapped entirely, but the federal auditor-general said last fall that he favours fixing it. The Liberal government has already invested hundreds of millions trying to get things back to normal.

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In its response to Trudel’s question, PSPC took pains to outline the efforts made to get Phoenix working properly. It lays the blame for the ongoing issues at the feet of the Harper Conservatives.

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“When the previous government irresponsibly treated this project as a cost-cutting measure instead of the complex enterprise-wide business transformation that it was, it set the project up to fail,” the documents state.

“They rushed the implementation while at the same time firing hundreds of workers who were needed to
ensure people were paid on time. We inherited this problem from the previous government but we will fix it.”

Unsurprisingly, Ontario and Quebec were the provinces with the most affected workers. Tens of thousands of federal public servants are based in the capital, Ottawa, and in nearby Gatineau, Que.

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