Union calls on prime minister to step into ‘stalled’ Phoenix compensation talks

OTTAWA — The country’s largest civil service union says talks aimed at compensating government employees affected by the Phoenix pay system fiasco have stalled.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada says Treasury Board negotiators at the table have told them they don’t have a mandate to proceed.

The union is now calling on the prime minister to step in.

The leaders of 17 unions issued a letter to Justin Trudeau in February, demanding compensation for civil servants who have suffered as a result of the pay crisis.

For more than two years, tens of thousands of federal workers have been affected by problems plaguing the Phoenix system, which was supposed to streamline pay services across government.

Some haven’t been paid at all for months at a time while others were paid either too little, or too much.

In its 2018 budget, the Liberal government promised to work with the unions to deal with the mental and emotional stress caused by Phoenix.

The unions have not disclosed the amount of compensation they are seeking, nor has the government said what it’s prepared to offer.

The unions say their members should receive compensation for stress, the time spent dealing with pay issues, and the catastrophic financial losses caused by Phoenix pay problems.

While there appeared to be movement as talks got underway last month, they have since come to a standstill, PSAC national president Chris Aylward said in a statement Wednesday.

“Government representatives at the table say they are waiting for a mandate,” Aylward said. “Well, it’s time Prime Minister Trudeau gave them one.”

Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough has said her department would continue working closely with public sector unions to limit the financial hardships faced by government workers.

She has also apologized to employees for the ongoing pay problems. But the compensation talks were taken out of Qualtrough’s hands and have been spearheaded instead by the Treasury Board Secretariat.

The costs associated with Phoenix, including the $309 million spent to set up the system, continue to escalate as the government hires compensation advisers and other staff in efforts to stabilize the problem.

The budget also committed $16 million to determine whether a new pay system could be found to replace Phoenix.

The auditor general is to release a report next week detailing what went wrong with the system.

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