Compensation for Phoenix damages

PSAC, alongside other federal government unions, has been negotiating for two years with the Trudeau government to provide fair compensation to over 270,000 public service workers who have suffered years of financial and emotional hardship because of the disastrous Phoenix pay system introduced in 2016.

What is PSAC fighting for?

PSAC has a number of key goals to ensure a fair Phoenix damages agreement is reached on behalf of our members. These include:

  1. fair compensation for everyone since all employees have been directly or indirectly impacted by Phoenix pay issues,
  2. expanding the current claims process to ensure that everyone who has been directly financially impacted can make an individual claim,
  3. introducing an additional claims process that would ensure all members who have been hardest hit, or those who have more substantial claims, are made whole. (these types of cases include but are not limited to: extreme losses like homes or vehicles; ruined credit ratings; health impacts; job loss; etc...); and
  4. allowing Phoenix-related grievances to be heard and resolved in a timely manner.

What is the government offering?

Days of leave

The Liberal government has offered what amounts to 1.25 days of leave per year for each member who has worked for the federal government since 2016. Entitlement to that leave would be the following:

2016/2017

2 days leave

2017/2018

1 day leave

2018/2019

1 day leave

2019/2020

1 day leave

All members are entitled to the above leave if they worked for any part of the relevant year. Both full time and part time employees qualify for the full amount.

Former employees and retirees would need to apply for this compensation directly and would receive it as a cash payment according to the value of the days of leave they would have been entitled to.

An expanded expense claims process

The government has agreed to expand the current expense claims process to include a broader range of out-of-pocket expenses for members impacted by Phoenix.

An additional claims process for catastrophic and major losses

This new claims process would cover individuals who suffered major financial losses because they couldn’t meet significant financial obligations – missed mortgage payments, car payments, rent payments, etc. This will also address less tangible costs, such as damaged credit scores that could impact individuals for years to come or the impacts on someone’s health. To qualify for this claims process, a member must have a minimum claim of $1500.

Why is PSAC not accepting this offer?

The 1.25 days per year is far too little to compensate or even recognize the massive impact that Phoenix has had on peoples’ lives. Over 270,000 workers have been directly impacted and suffered financial losses. Many were also forced to delay career advancement, cancel parental leave, experience high levels of anxiety, reduce their support of family members, and delay retirement – to name a few of the serious adverse effects. There remains a backlog of 240,000 cases to be resolved. More than 100,000 workers are still waiting to have their last collective agreements implemented.

This offer, also contains other elements that we cannot accept, such as imposing a $1500 threshold before some claims for compensation can be filed. In addition, many members would be unfairly prevented from cashing out the leave offered due to restrictive provisions in their collective agreements.

Our members make up the bulk of the federal public service and have suffered enormous damage because of the Phoenix pay system. Yet they have kept showing up to work every day, delivering the critical services Canadians depend on. Our union will not trade in four years of our members’ pain and suffering for a settlement that does not adequately compensate for the terrible toll Phoenix has had on their lives and that of their families.

Why not file a class action lawsuit?

Unlike non-unionized workers who might have to rely on a lengthy and expensive class action lawsuit, PSAC members are already part of a certified class – their union – and can seek a resolution directly with the government. Unlike a lawsuit that would wind its way through many years of the legal system with an uncertain outcome, we can negotiate more quickly with the government and ensure we only settle for the best deal.  In addition, PSAC members will not have to pay a significant percentage of their settlement to a law firm as they would if they were forced into a class action lawsuit.

Why should all PSAC members be compensated?

There are countless ways Phoenix has impacted every single federal public service worker, regardless if they experienced a specific pay problem or not. Many delayed career advancement, cancelled parental leave, reduced their support of family members, and delayed retirement because they were no longer getting paid correctly, or could no longer be sure they would get their next paycheque.

Even the very few whose pay didn’t experience significant problems have had to endure significant anxiety before, during, and after every payday, worrying if they would be next, tracking every item of their pay stub, for years.

All of this has taken a serious toll on the entirety of PSAC’s membership and therefore any damages agreement has to contain an element of universal compensation to cover general damages to all.

What will happen with all the Phoenix-related grievances if a settlement is reached?

Our members have a right to have their grievance heard before the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board. PSAC is working to ensure our members have access to an ideal and efficient process to hear and resolve all grievances linked to Phoenix.

May 3, 2019
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