QP – Phoenix Pay System

The Honourable Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate

June 1, 2017

Phoenix Pay System

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Harder, as you heard in my statement today, Inuit are suffering in Nunavut because the government, it seems, has yet to rectify the Phoenix fiasco.

After more than a year of waiting, employees are finding their Isolated Post Allowance is missing, and southern pay officers have no idea what that even is. They don’t understand why northern employees are getting rent deducted. These are the people who are supposed to be helping Nunavummiut rectify their pay issues.

I would like to be able to tell Mike and many other federal employees in Nunavut who have approached me that the government is listening, cares and will do something to help them. I had suggested this to the ministerial task force. Will the government establish a unit that is trained and sensitized to deal with the pay issues of the North at their call centre and ensure that Nunavummiut are being properly helped?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I want to thank the honourable senator for his question as well as for his statement earlier. It is entirely appropriate for senators to advocate for their constituents. The case of Mike that you raise is one that would be of concern to any senator, particularly one in the circumstances that you describe.

I have, knowing that you were going to raise this case, made inquiries of the department. I want to ensure you that they are following up with your office with respect to this case, but also I would like to discuss with you how we might find a mechanism that can urgently respond to the cases that you are aware of. In the interim, I do know that you have written the minister. I can assure you and all senators that that letter will be responded to forthwith.

Phoenix Pay System

(Response to question raised by the Honourable Dennis Glen Patterson on June 1, 2017)

Resolving the ongoing public service pay problems is our priority. This situation is completely unacceptable and we are working tirelessly to ensure that pay issues are resolved as quickly as possible.

These issues have caused real hardships for many public servants and their families – issues that no families should have to face.

Our government remains focused on addressing this issue, which was created by the previous government when they recklessly eliminated more than 700 compensation staff and pressed ahead on a highly complex project that was already behind schedule. We are filling the hundreds of jobs the previous government eliminated and we are making significant other investments.

We have made significant investments to ensure the prompt processing of pay transactions and collective agreements, through an additional investment of $142 million. This will allow our government to increase staff at the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, extend satellite offices for as long as needed, create surge capacity at the Gatineau office, and hire new compensation and technical staff.

We will explore all options, leave no stone unturned, and won’t stop working until this problem is fixed.

The Government continues to communicate openly and transparently about pay issues. Last year, we provided regular briefings to media, but over time we found that this approach was not the most effective vehicle to share information with the employees. Therefore, this spring we introduced an online dashboard designed specifically for public servants, which presents clear, straightforward and meaningful information about our efforts to process outstanding pay transactions. This information is updated every month.

As of our last posting (November 1, 2017) there were 265,000 pending transactions above normal workloads at the Pay Centre. This increase of 8,000 transactions was expected as we focused our efforts on processing payments associated with recently signed collective agreements, which have legislated payment timelines.

Public Services and Procurement Canada remains committed to providing timely and useful information to employees. A new monthly employee communication initiative, the Pay Bulletin was launched in August 2017. The objective of the Pay Bulletin is to provide information that is specific, timely and relevant to employees. Each month, the Bulletin will include an updated Public Service Pay Centre dashboard, articles and links on specific and seasonal pay-related information, a Did You Know section that highlights frequently asked questions, and links to other useful information.

The next dashboard and Pay Bulletin will be published at the beginning of December.

Performance pay

Performance pay for some key senior officials directly involved in Phoenix is on hold until we have the results of an evaluation of the project. The results of this evaluation will inform how to proceed with performance pay for these officials.

The performance of lower-level executives who played a supporting role has been carefully reviewed and payments were issued where warranted.