Phoenix: Questions and answers

UPDATED February 28, 2017

Background

 

 

I have not received my correct pay. What should I do?

If your pay is being administered from within your department, agency or organization use the procedures outlined by them.

If your pay is being administered by Miramichi, follow the instructions below.

The government has important information with instructions about what to do if you are having pay issues

  • Tell your manager.
  • Carefully document the problems you are having
  • Report your pay issue using the Phoenix feedback form or by calling the call centre at 1‑855‑686‑4729.
  • If you need money urgently, you can request “priority pay” or an emergency salary advance. Speak to your manager about these options.
  • Priority pay is issued by departments and can be issued within 24 to 48 hours. The amount paid represents 66% of an employee’s gross pay.
  • To request an emergency salary advance (ESA), your manager must complete a Pay Action Request form which asks basic information like your PRI number.
  • Follow up. If you have already been assigned a case number from the Pay Centre, you may either use the online Phoenix Case Status Request form to receive a status update or phone the call centre directly at 1-855-686-4729. We know that it may be difficult to get an answer right away, given the volume of inquiries. However, it is still important to register the problem by calling and/or filling in the web form.
  • For other information about pay, see Pay for the Public Service

 

Employees are entitled to priority payments if they are not getting any pay or if they are only getting some of the pay they are owed, should they choose to apply for it. This is a recent change in priority pay practice. More information is available on the government’s website.

 

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How long will it take to resolve my pay issue?

This will depend on what the issue is and how well service standards are currently being met.

Cases where employees are receiving no pay are prioritized and should be resolved within one or two pay periods.

Cases involving employees going on parental or disability leave are also considered priorities.

For other cases, the time it takes will vary.

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How will the employer recover monies that I must repay?

See Tax and repayment information for employees

PSAC has met regularly with Treasury Board to work out conditions for recoveries that will not create additional financial hardship. We also wanted to ensure that members are not disadvantaged because overpayments have impacted their tax status.

The employer will not begin recovery of monies they are owed until they are confident that employees who have experienced incorrect or no pay have had their situation resolved. If you are unable to repay monies that you received in accordance with the terms outlined on this website, you should talk to your employer about alternative repayment terms. 

 

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When will problems with allowances, acting pay, and overtime be resolved?

PSAC is pushing the employer to resolve these problems as quickly as possible. The government has said that it expects to be meeting service standards on these types of cases by summer 2017. Updates on their progress in dealing with different types of cases will be provided regularly on the government’s website.

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I am retiring. Will I have problems receiving my pension because of Phoenix?

You may experience delays in receiving your pension because your termination information may take longer than it should to reach the Pension Centre. The ordinary service standard is 20 days, but the Employer is currently only meeting that standard 25% of the time. Retiring members should follow the normal procedure, which is sending the government pension centre a letter of intent with an end date from your department.

If you experience delays, you can submit a Phoenix feedback form or call the call centre at 1-855-686-4729 to report the issue. The Pay Centre will then follow up. We know that it may be difficult to get an answer right away, given the volume of inquiries. However, it is still important to register the problem by calling and/or filling in the web form.

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I am off on disability leave but have not received my disability insurance payments from SunLife. What can I do?

Phoenix has caused delays in disability insurance (DI) payments because information from the employer has not been sent to SunLife to complete the DI application process. SunLife has told PSAC that they cannot process DI claims until they have all of the information. We are working with the employer and with SunLife to address these problems.

Employees who are on a graduated return to work are also experiencing problems receiving pay because SunLife isn’t receiving the information they need to make partial payments in a timely fashion.

As a result of the legal action taken by PSAC and other bargaining agents, the government is required to do more to assist members on DI, maternity leave and parental leave who are facing Phoenix related problems. In the coming weeks, the government will be announcing how assistance to these affected members will be delivered.   

If you are in this situation, you should complete a Phoenix feedback form or contact the call centre at 1-855-686-4729 to let them know about your situation. Since you are receiving no pay, your situation will be given priority. We know that it may be difficult to get an answer right away, given the volume of inquiries. However, it is still important to register the problem by calling. and/or filling in the web form.

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What do I do if I have been cut off from or not been enrolled in health benefits because of Phoenix?

See: Group insurance benefit plans administration for the Public Service Pay Centre

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What do I do if I need a Record of Employment (ROE) but have not received one?

The employer is obligated to provide a Record of Employment (ROE) to Service Canada on your behalf.  Usually this is done electronically. Even though the application process for EI benefits can begin without an ROE, the actual processing of the benefits can be delayed without it. Employees on parental leave do not need their record of employment to apply for employment insurance benefits.

If Service Canada has not received your ROE because of Phoenix, they can provide you with an Interim Record of Employment. You will be required to provide Service Canada with information about your employment status and the pay you normally receive. There may be adjustments to your EI benefits when Service Canada receives the ROE from the Employer. Once Service Canada has your ROE, you can view it electronically by visiting "My Service Canada Account".

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Is there compensation for employees who have had expenses because of pay problems?

The claim process and forms for compensation can be found on the Phoenix website.

It is important to keep all receipts and documents for any out-of-pocket expenses that you have incurred because of Phoenix-related pay problems.

PSAC continues to advocate to make the compensation process as fair as possible. We are also working to for a fair and efficient recourse system.

If you are unsatisfied with the result of the Phoenix claims process, speak to your union representative. Do not sign any departmental release form, as this may affect your right to file a grievance.

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What if my pay problems have impacted my taxes?

See: Phoenix and tax implications

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What is the government doing to fix these problems?

PSAC has pushed the government to hire more compensation advisors, open satellite pay centres, and take many other measures to fix the system.

The government has provided information on measures they have taken on their website.

For updates on the government’s progress in addressing various pay issues, see Phoenix pay system issues

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What is the Union doing?

PSAC has been pushing the government to fix the system and working with them to advocate for practical solutions.

Here are some of the things PSAC has done and is continuing to do on your behalf: Phoenix: What PSAC is doing for you

 

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Should I file a grievance?

You have the right to be paid correctly and on-time. However, it is important to keep in mind that, in most cases, filing a grievance will be unlikely to speed up the process or provide any additional benefit.

That being said, we have advised members experiencing serious pay problems (ongoing disruption of regular pay) to file grievances if they are concerned to protect their recourse rights. Such grievances can be put in abeyance – meaning on hold – pending resolution of the pay problem through the pay centre.

The government claims process can provide the best results for reimbursement for additional expenses incurred by members who have experienced pay problems. Please note that if you use the government claims process and disagree with the results, a grievance may be filed at that time.

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I have heard that there are privacy breaches. Has my personal information been compromised?

In July 2016, the media reported that there had been privacy breaches associated with Phoenix.

PSAC asked in May if there were privacy concerns associated with the new Phoenix pay system, and were assured that there were not. The PSPC did not alert the union that members’ privacy had been breached. 

The Deputy Minister of Public Works confirmed the incidents in an open letter to staff posted on the department’s website on July 21, 2016.

The department admits that employee names, pay amounts, and PRIs were used by IBM when they were testing Phoenix. They also admit that about 70,000 managers had access to information about all federal government employees between February and April of 2016. The letter says that the problems are fixed.

Minister Foote says that the department has advised her that the Privacy Commissioner was alerted to the breaches in April. She asked him to look at it again.

PSAC isn’t convinced that we have all the information about this privacy breach. Nor do we understand why PSPC hid this information from the union.

Accordingly, PSAC President, Robyn Benson wrote a letter to the Privacy Commissioner asking him to thoroughly investigate this issue, so that public service workers can be assured that their personal information has not been compromised, and if it has what the consequences ought to be. 

We have heard of no additional privacy breaches subsequently.

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Why didn’t the government foresee these kinds of problems?

Although everyone agreed that the old pay system needed to be updated, the Conservative government used the requirement for modernization as an opportunity to cut jobs. Like other cuts and privatization initiatives, there was no evidence that they could make these cuts without consequences.

PSAC warned PSPC as early as 2011 that it should not cut jobs before a new system was proven to work. PSPC ignored us and continued with cutting compensation advisor jobs.

The union warned the department that they were downloading significant amounts of work to departments and organizations that they were not used to doing and that extensive training was required to prepare them. Inadequate and often voluntary training was provided.

Once the pay system was rolled out, PSAC repeatedly warned the government that problems were occurring with the new system and asked them to slow down the rollout and transfer of new files. Our requests were largely ignored, and the rollout went ahead. Public service workers are paying the price.

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How has the pay system changed? Why is the government introducing this new pay system?

The Consolidation of Pay Services Project combined pay services from participating departments and agencies at the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, NB. Compensation advisors in departments were given the option to move to Miramichi, but most did not. Many new staff were hired and trained for the Centre.

The Pay Modernization Project replaced the government’s outdated regional computer pay system with "Phoenix," a new software system. There are some organizations like CRA and CBSA that are being serviced by their own internal departmental compensation advisors instead of those in Miramichi but are still using the Phoenix system.

The creation of the Miramichi Pay Centre and the launch of Phoenix are part of the employer’s “Transformation of Pay Administration” initiative. The Public Service Pay Centre’s website explains the government’s reasoning for the changes to the pay system.

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What types of problems are there with the rollout of the new system?

The rollout of the Phoenix system has had many problems, including:

  • an inability to recognize and properly compensate shift workers
  • overtime and compensatory time not being recorded properly or paid out
  • certain allowances not being programmed into the system
  • employees not receiving their Record of Employment
  • income taxes not being properly calculated
  • employees being deleted from the system and not getting paid at all
  • certain employees, like those working on ships for the Coast Guard, are not only having problems getting paid, they also do not have access to e-post or to the call centre while at sea
  • no information provided to the insurer (Sun Life) to allow for insurance payments to members, including those on DI
  • overpayments due to medical leaves not being properly recorded
  • lack of a timely process to activate new pension files
  • delays in entering new hires, summer students and casual employees into the system
  • delays in new retirees receiving pension payments
  • breaches in privacy

As well, certain types of pay and allowances are not being properly accounted for and paid out, such as:

  • pay for leave with income averaging
  • maternity and parental leave allowances (top-ups)
  • reintegration back into the workplace (e.g. employees on a combination of return to work and SunLife)
  • salary increments
  • acting pay
  • disability insurance payments

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Why are there so many problems with the pay system?

There are three systemic problems with the new pay system:
 

  1. Understaffing: The employer underestimated how many people would be required to effectively administer pay for the departments that transferred their pay files to Miramichi. It has insisted for years that 550 workers could do the work that was formerly done by several thousand trained compensation advisors. It didn’t make any plans to address problems that occurred if this wasn’t the case.
     
  2. Lack of training and awareness:  Training on the Phoenix software has been inadequate. The centralization of pay services in Miramichi and the introduction of the new Phoenix system also means that managers, human resource professionals and financial officers have new functions. Many are either unaware of their new roles or were not adequately trained.
     
  3. Software problems: The software appears to have inherent problems that cannot be easily addressed, especially given the lack of sufficient staffing at the Miramichi Pay Centre.

Workers at the Pay Centre in Miramichi have been doing their best to pay people accurately and on time. But insufficient staff, training and flaws in the new Phoenix pay system are preventing these workers from doing so.

 

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February 28, 2017
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