Big turnout of federal employees in downtown Victoria to protest problem plagued Phoenix payroll system


WATCH:  Hundreds of federal employees came out to a rally in downtown Victoria. They’re upset with the problem-plagued Phoenix payroll system. Rolled out two years ago, it routinely underpays, overpays or in some cases, doesn’t pay government workers at all. The federal budget promises to replace the system. But as Mary Griffin reports, for many, it won’t happen soon enough.

Protestors took to the streets of Victoria on Wednesday.

“What do we want? Pay! When do we want it? Now! What do we want? Pay! When do we want it? Now!” the protestors screamed.

Hundreds of federal employees marched during their lunch break, protesting a payroll system, Phoenix, rolled out by the federal government two years ago this month.

Gordon Hardy said every month is an issue. “I put in 35 years, and after 35 years I don’t have to pay into my pension anymore. They haven’t, they are still taking off that pension, and that’s amounting to about $800 every month. Since then, that’s since June,” Hardy said.

Robert Lacquement, who recently retired from the Department of National Defense, said the problems have not stopped. “I’ve recently retired, as of May last year, and I’m still waiting for my severance to come in. So, I’m lucky. I only waited ten months. I have a friend of mine who’s been out for a year, and a half, and he’s still waiting.”

Colleen Girard from Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents federal civil servants, said there are many affected on Vancouver Island. “We’re probably close to five thousand members for the public service. And I, and I would imagine out of those, at least 50 per cent of them are affected.”

The Phoenix pay system is plagued with problems, and MP’s are inundated with complaints from their constituents, including the NDP’s Randall Garrison.

“In my riding alone, over 1,000 federal employees have been overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all,” Garrison said. “Many have been forced to max out their credit cards, dip into retirement savings, or incur late fees because they are waiting on their hard earned paycheques.”

Tuesday’s federal budget includes $431 million to address problems created by Phoenix, and Ottawa is looking at eventually scrapping the software altogether.  Meanwhile, the stress of not knowing the routine of a regular paycheque is taking a toll on many including Lindsey Pike.  She transferred from the Ministry of Environment to becoming an employee with the Coast Guard 18 months ago, and the pay problems have persisted ever since.  “I’ve been reaching points of suicidal. I’m just upset all the time.  And I try and tell everyone who will listen, and it’s not getting me anywhere. I just feel like it’s never going to end.”

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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