Don’t Blame Bargaining for Phoenix Failures

Earlier this month, PSPC Minister Carla Qualtrough asked me if I would be willing to negotiate simplifying some of the pay rules bargained over decades that, some claim, contribute to the dysfunction of the federal pay system. My answer was yes – provided it doesn’t result in any loss of pay to our members.

But my willingness to bargain changes in the practical best interests of our members should not be mistaken for believing such pay rules are inherently dysfunctional, or that Phoenix failures are the fault of bargaining or – far from it – of unions.

It is, frankly, absurd and offensive to accuse collective agreements of confounding the current pay system. The old pay system, built in-house by our members and still used in a few workplaces, managed such changes for 40 years without this kind of catastrophic failure. Many of these changes were introduced by management, not unions. Phoenix was sold to the federal government as the software solution to all pay issues -- including changes regularly negotiated through collective bargaining – bypassing the expertise and input of our members. The current government even assured us earlier this year that retro pay would be unaffected.

We are therefore entirely within our rights in demanding that any system as poorly planned, implemented and tested as Phoenix should be scrapped and a new one that works be built.

Our national and international economies are built on options and choices. We have different cars, different houses, different toothpastes. To suggest that we can't have a different pay system for the largest employer in the country is ridiculous. To suggest that we can’t afford it is to ignore the evidence of this week’s report by the Auditor General – who cannot predict when Phoenix will be fixed or how many hundreds of millions of dollars it will cost to do so – and to subject our members, Canadians and future governments to the most costly and dysfunctional pay system ever inflicted on our public service.

Bargaining didn’t create this mess. It may, however, help fix some of it while we continue to demand a new system built by our members that works.

Better Together.

Debi Daviau

President


16 January 2019
The federal government has just announced that it is proposing new measures to help correct the wide-ranging issue of employees having to repay the gross instead of the net amount of a salary overpayment caused by system, administrative or clerical errors. This is particularly significant for PIPSC members: tens of thousands of you have experienced this problem first-hand thanks to the calamitous Phoenix system.

15 January 2019
The New Year will see the Institute continue to be very active in defending the interests of its members, and I would like to take this opportunity to keep you informed of some of the key issues we will be facing over the next twelve months.

11 January 2019
Like many Canadians, I was sorry to learn yesterday that Treasury Board President and Minister of Digital Government Scott Brison is leaving Cabinet and will not be seeking re-election later this year.

4 December 2018
While PIPSC, alongside our union partners at the National Joint Council Dental Care Board of Management, is still negotiating hard to improve the majority of our members’ dental plan (NJC Component 55555), I am very pleased to announce that we have nailed down the following significant improvemen

30 November 2018
Earlier this year, in its 2018 Budget, the federal government announced its intention to replace the catastrophic Phoenix pay system with a new, functional alternative.

10 October 2018
On October 4, 2018 I made a presentation to the Government Operations Committee of the House of Commons about the current state of the federal public service hiring process. This was very timely, as the government had just released its own study of the issue.