This is a very sad anniversary for public service workers. A year ago, the Liberal government began its rollout of Phoenix, the consolidated payroll system for the federal public service.
Since then, thousands of workers have been paid incorrectly or, in some cases, not at all. This has caused financial hardship and stress for these workers. And many more worry every pay day if they will be the next victim of the Phoenix debacle.
As the largest union representing federal government employees, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has been working with the government to help fix Phoenix and find solutions to alleviate the negative impact this pay system has on our members. Through this work, it has become clear that federal departments and agencies require additional human resource capacity, as well as continuous training, in order to adjust to the changes required by Phoenix.
If departments are not resourced properly to address these new roles, Phoenix will never be fixed. That is why PSAC is urging the government to include a $75 million Phoenix contingency fund in the upcoming federal budget. Departments and agencies could draw from this fund to respond to problems and adjust to the new pay input structure so that essential pay information is entered correctly and consistently. In turn, this will increase the government’s capacity to ensure federal public service workers are paid correctly and on-time.
While PSAC will continue working with the government to find solutions, we expect them to take responsibility and ensure this kind of debacle never happens again.
When the Harper Conservative government announced it was eliminating hundreds of experienced compensation advisor positions, as part of the transition to the new pay system, PSAC said this decision would have a devastating and lasting impact. When Phoenix launched, and the problems began, PSAC urged the new Liberal government to delay the final rollout until these problems were resolved. Sadly, the government didn’t listen.
The Phoenix debacle wasn’t an accident; it was the result of a series of conscious decisions by the former and current federal government.
We know the Liberal government has other modernization plans for the federal public service, including a new human resources systems. The government needs to learn the lessons from Phoenix. That means listening to the people doing the work and the unions that represents them.
Opinion Letter from Robyn Benson, National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada