Employees and union leaders from federal institutions and departments in the Kent area gathered during their lunch hours outside of the Agassiz Research and Development Centre last Wednesday to protest the Phoenix pay system. Nina Grossman/The Observer

Employees and union leaders from federal institutions and departments in the Kent area gathered during their lunch hours outside of the Agassiz Research and Development Centre last Wednesday to protest the Phoenix pay system. Nina Grossman/The Observer

Federal workers rally for immediate action on Phoenix pay system

Workers, union leaders call for solutions following release of fed’s six-year plan

“I’m not sure if I know of anybody who hasn’t been affected by the Phoenix pay system in our centre,” says Anthony Friesen, the local Public Service Alliance of Canada president for the agriculture union at the Agassiz Research and Development Centre.

“We have members who, for over two years, have been out thousands of dollars and, regardless of the situation, these people are coming to work every day, doing their jobs.”

Friesen joined dozens of federal government workers rallying outside the Agassiz Research and Development Centre last Wednesday to ask the government for immediate action addressing the IBM-built faulty system that has been shortchanging thousands of federal workers across the country since 2016.

With flags waving and cars honking, the rally was high-energy, but a current of frustration ran through the group’s chatter.

The resentment isn’t limited to the Fraser Valley. Federal employees were rallying in cities across Canada on Feb. 28, marking the second-year anniversary of the disastrous system’s implementation. The rallies came only a day after the federal government’s new budget outlined plans to put $431 million over six years towards addressing the issues caused by the pay system, and another $16 million over two years to explore options for replacing it.

READ: Liberals vow to replace Phoenix pay system

In 2016, the computerized Phoenix pay system replaced some 2,700 payroll specialists across Canada with an automated system run by 500 people in Miramichi, N.B. And although the federal government’s new investment involves increasing the number of employees handling pay issues, it has still vowed to eventually scrap the program altogether.

But for employees with years of pay problems – some still owed thousands, – the federal pledge for a new approach provides little comfort.

“To take six years to fix a problem where people aren’t getting paid? That’s not acceptable,” said Dean Babuin, regional vice president for Eastern British Columbia’s sect of the Syndicat Agriculture Union.

“The people of Canada vote them into power and they trust that they’re going to take care of the country … If this was a private company doing this, there’s no way they would get away with this.”

After being introduced by the Conservatives, the pay system was implemented by the Liberal government two years ago, and there has been mayhem ever since, with hundreds of thousands of federal employees impacted – getting paid too much, too little or, in some cases, not at all.

The most common issues have been not receiving enough in benefits, overtime or pay differentials for temporary promotions.

Kirsty Havard, regional vice-president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees (USJE) reported seeing some employees owed up to $30,000.

“Some of the workers have lost their home. They’ve had loans, credit card debt to cover things,” Havard said. “I’ve even represented people who have had to go to their family, friends or church for money.”

Jamey Mills, Public Service Alliance of Canada regional executive vice-president, stated in a media release that another issue for tens of thousands of impacted workers is over-payment error.

“The government is asking our members to repay the gross amount, which means they are asking them to repay more money than they actually received and hope it all comes out in the wash when they file their taxes. This government has paid their employees incorrectly, and now they’re supposed to ‘loan’ them money while they figure it out?”

Friesen said federal workers have no confidence in the system. He said the only thing they are confident in is that their paycheques will be inaccurate.

“This is a problem that was created by two separate governments,” he said. “I’m not sure they could have done a worse job if they tried.”

Employees from work sites such as Agassiz’s Mountain Institution and Agriculture and Agri-food Canada have been rallying with other federal workers from the region since last year.

They brought signs, placards and anger to the constituency office of Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl in October and December.

– with files from

Paul Henderson

 

The federal government’s budget, released Tuesday, allocates funds for fixing the issues caused by the Phoenix pay system and working toward replacing it completely. But federal workers say steps need to be taken sooner. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

The federal government’s budget, released Tuesday, allocates funds for fixing the issues caused by the Phoenix pay system and working toward replacing it completely. But federal workers say steps need to be taken sooner. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Just Posted

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

(Unsplash.com)
Protecting our elders: It’s up to all of us to look out for them

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is June 15

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read