Collective agreement work adds to Phoenix backlog, minister says

The minister in charge of managing the federal government’s Phoenix payroll system said Wednesday implementing more than a dozen collective agreements since July has added to the backlog of cases payroll advisers are dealing with.

Carla Qualtrough, the minister of public services and procurement, said the backlog related to the troubled payroll system has increased by 8,000 cases since the government signed new collective agreements this summer, a reflection she says, of the “increase of hundreds of thousands of transactions over the past couple of months” related to those agreements.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said they planned to file a complaint with the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board Wednesday for missing a deadline related to the collective agreement they signed with the government. The agreement would have included three years worth of back pay, as well as increased wages.

But the Treasury Board has admitted they won’t meet the deadline to implement those changes.

Agreements negotiated in good faith, minister says

Qualtrough said her department has dedicated “significant resources” to handling the backlog and implementing those agreements, which she said would be dealt with “as quickly as possible.”

“It was set up as best as we possibly could, given the information we had at the time. We negotiated these collective agreements swiftly and, as I said, in good faith,” Qualtrough said.

“Whatever we can possibly do, we’re doing. This problem was years in the making, and it’s not going to — it’s not going to be resolved overnight.”

Since Phoenix’s implementation in the spring of 2016, tens of thousands of public servants have reported issues with their pay, with some workers being overpaid, some underpaid and some not paid at all.

Minister hopeful backlog to decline in 2018

When asked Wednesday if the government would continue using Phoenix, the minister responded by saying “we are absolutely committed to this pay system. It’s the only one we have.”

PSAC said Tuesday they are looking for compensation for both the persistent problems with Phoenix and the failure to implement these new agreements.

Qualtrough said once payroll advisers have cleared the backlog of cases related to the new collective agreements, the government should start to see the backlog decrease next year.

“I’m very hopeful that in the new year the numbers will go down as we get through this collective agreement situation,” she said.


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