Scrap disastrous Phoenix pay system, union head urges Trudeau government

OTTAWA — Give us a year, and we’ll build a working replacement for the trouble-plagued Phoenix pay system, one of the country’s biggest civil service unions told the Trudeau Liberals on Tuesday.

Tired of months of repeated promises that the system’s shortcomings would be fixed soon, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) wants the government to scrap the system and start over almost from scratch — a call the government isn’t dismissing out of hand.

“After nearly two years of problems with IBM’s Phoenix pay system, our members have lost confidence in the promise of fixing Phoenix,” union president Debi Daviau said Tuesday.

“Despite all efforts to fix Phoenix, the number of open cases of pay problems has grown to 330,000 as of October 2017 — with no end in sight,” said Daviau.

“Enough is enough.”

Her union represents about 50,000 federal employees.

Daviau said the government’s own IT professionals are more than capable of building a new system to end the pay crisis that has gripped federal employees since Phoenix was launched in April 2016.

It should take roughly a year to build and properly test a new system, based on Oracle’s PeopleSoft human resources management software, Daviau told a news conference, although she could not provide a cost estimate for the project.

“We already have the expertise and the people within the federal public service capable of designing and building it,” she said. “They just need the opportunity to do so.”

The call was supported by the opposition New Democrats and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, by far the largest civil service union with 180,000 government employees on its rolls.

“We welcome any system that would pay our members,” PSAC national president Robyn Benson said in a statement, adding that her union was prepared to work with PIPSC to ensure a new system could be administered smoothly.

“If Phoenix has taught us anything, we know that any system will require thorough consultations and testing,” said Benson.

A spokeswoman for the minister responsible for the pay system also appeared to leave the door open to a new approach, saying the government was prepared to work with the unions towards “finding a permanent solution” to the pay problems.

The department “continues to work with all partners including union leadership to find innovative and efficient solutions to the pay issues,” Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough’s press secretary Ashley Michnowski said in an emailed statement.

Michnowski added that the government was awaiting the findings of an auditor general’s report on the Phoenix debacle, which is to be made public next week.

Over the weekend, Qualtrough said she could not guarantee the ultimate cost of fixing the problems wouldn’t reach $1 billion.

When asked whether the cost to fix the public service pay system could reach that amount, the minister told CTV’s Question Period “I hope not,” but offered no assurances about the ultimate price tag.

Shortly after Phoenix went online, thousands of civil servants began reporting that they had been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all — and in many cases, the problems extended over months.

The automated system, designed to streamline government’s antiquated pay system, was supposed to save Ottawa about $70 million a year.

Instead, the government has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to fix it, even as a backlog of problem cases grows larger.

During the summer, the Treasury Board of Canada issued a notice that it was planning to contract Oracle Canada — the company that produced the software at the core of the Phoenix system — to assess the system in hopes of stabilizing it.

The $2 million sole-source contract was for a period of six months, ending March 31, 2018.

The Senate has already set out to find a replacement system to pay its own employees.

But Daviau said she expected any private-sector solution the Senate comes up with either won’t work or can’t be expanded to handle the often complicated pay files of more than 300,000 civil servants spread over dozens of departments and agencies.

Just Posted

One person dead, five others injured in early-morning crash in Kingston, Ont.

KINGSTON, Ont. — A man who was checking the damage on his… Continue reading

Robotics challenge sparks student interest in Red Deer

Student-built robots compete in fun challenge

Accused murderer tells all to Mr. Big undercover officer

Joshua Frank tells undercover police officer he shot the Klaus family

Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre prepares to open

Non-profit will run the facility and agencies will provide staff

A slow economic recovery isn’t yet loosening Central Alberta’s tight job market

Job-seekers at Red Deer fair say there are still few openings

WATCH: Central Middle School students’ Christmas tree

A group of Central Middle School students are set to show off… Continue reading

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

100+ Women Red Deer donate to Christmas Bureau

About $14,000 will help with Christmas hampers and toys

Semi collides with vehicle on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

Members of the Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit dealt with a call on Highway 2 north of Ponoka

After 70 years, Red Deer veteran still remembers his traumatic war experience

Frank Krepps feels lucky to have survived the Second World War

Merritt Mountie charged with assault

Charges are in relation to an incident in May at the detachment, B.C. Prosecution Service said

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month