Ditch Phoenix, union urges federal government

It is time for the federal government to ditch the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system and build a new system that works, using public servants, says the head of one of Canada’s largest public service unions.

In a press conference Tuesday, Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represents many of federal IT specialists, called on the government to kill the federal payroll program, and use its own people to build a new system.

Daviau says public servants have lost confidence in Phoenix and are doubtful that it can be fixed. She says she's heard from members that could deliver a new system faster than they estimate it'll take to fix Phoenix, though PIPSC does not have an estimate on what that approach would cost.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period that aired Sunday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough said she couldn’t guarantee that the price tab to fix the problem-plagued pay system won’t hit a billion dollars. Qualtrough also said she doesn’t know when the system will be consistently paying people correctly and on time, though she anticipates the number of backlogged cases to go down in the New Year.

“The government needs to stop throwing good money after bad and start investing in a system that works,” Daviau said Tuesday.

The Phoenix system, initiated by the previous Conservative government in 2009, was meant to streamline the payroll of public servants and save more than $70 million annually. Already, the government has planned to spend $400 million trying to fix it, including hiring more staff and setting up satellite pay centres in Gatineau, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Shawinigan, to try to chip away at the pile of remaining cases. It cost $309.5 million to implement the system.

PIPSC says the government needs to hire more people in the short-term, while tasking its own IT people with building a new pay system. She said there is internal expertise capable of designing a system that works for the intricacies of the federal public service.

The initial promise from the department was to have the backlog of problematic pay cases resolved by Oct. 31, 2016.

As of Oct. 18, there were 265,000 cases of employee pay issues left to be resolved, and the department says more than half of public servants who get paid through the system are still experiencing "some form of pay issue.”

Though PIPSC’s numbers show that the number of open cases of pay problems is closer to 330,000, PIPSC said Tuesday.

"Enough is enough," Daviau said.