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Union: Federal Phoenix Pay System Facing Larger Backlog of Problems Than Ever

Three unions are urging the government to provide additional compensation to federal public servants grappling with the Phoenix pay system and its numerous chronic issues.

“This marks the eighth anniversary of Phoenix,” stated Chris Aylward, the national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “Unfortunately, after eight years of pay chaos, there is no cause for celebration—no end in sight.”

Since its inception in 2016, the number of unresolved problems has reached 444,000. Mr. Aylward noted, “We have never had this many cases in the backlog,” during a news conference on Feb. 27 on Parliament Hill.

The typical wait time for addressing payroll problems is usually two years, according to federal public service unions as per a news release.

The coalition, which also includes the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, is advocating for the extension of existing agreements to compensate public servants for damages.

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“Pay issues persist,” Mr. Aylward remarked in an interview. “We continue to face payment problems every single week, and we are years away from a new pay system.”

Mr. Aylward disclosed that his union had secured a prior settlement offering members $2,500 for issues from 2016 to 2020.

“Essentially, we are proposing new compensation for the last four years,” he added.

Public servants are still encountering similar challenges as before, according to Mr. Aylward: “Very little has changed.”

While there are fewer cases of individuals not receiving any pay, PSAC members are still experiencing incorrect payments and lengthy delays in updating their pay information when switching departments or agencies, he noted.

“For someone looking to retire, the uncertainty regarding their pension due to payment issues can be a significant worry,” he emphasized. “There is a lot of anxiety prevailing.”

He described the Phoenix system as “continuing to be chaotic.”

“When the government is unable to pay its employees accurately and promptly, there must be repercussions,” he stated.

Treasury Board President Anita Anand shared her commitment to collaborating with the union to find solutions, emphasizing that public service employees deserve timely and equitable compensation.

Mr. Aylward also criticized the government’s focus on asserting overpayments before the expiration of a six-year limitation term, which commenced in 2022.

Employers started requesting PSAC members to reimburse hundreds of dollars from years ago—without providing explanations for the overpayments or even specifying the affected paychecks.

“Yet, they expect our members to accept liability without clarification,” Mr. Aylward expressed. He suggested that the government should hire more adequately trained compensation advisors.

Recruiting and retaining advisers has proved challenging as they struggle within a flawed system, he pointed out. The government needs to invest more effort in this area, he added.

Introduced in 2016, Phoenix was anticipated to streamline numerous outdated pay systems and save the government millions annually. Instead, it led to substantial turmoil.

Jennifer Carr, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, proposed a complete overhaul of the system.

“Any future payment system must emphasize accuracy, transparency, and accountability,” she asserted. “We cannot afford a recurrence of the Phoenix mistakes.”

Ms. Anand emphasized the necessity for a new payment system that functions flawlessly upon implementation, stressing that another system similar to the Phoenix pay system is intolerable.

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