Last week I was invited to speak with the cabinet-level working group on Phoenix to discuss potential solutions to the Phoenix pay system.
I brought to them a number of problems and possible solutions to help fix the disastrous Phoenix pay system. Public servants are still facing hardship and ongoing problems and we all desperately want to see relief and a solution soon.
I urged them to make sure all of their cabinet colleagues understood the severity of the problem and that priority pay was available to all employees wherever they work in the public service. I reiterated that problems like those faced in processing our SP Group members’ retroactive pay were unacceptable. I also offered the Cabinet Ministers a concrete plan to engage our government IT community. I proposed they train 30 to 40 CS Group members on the pay system. This would begin to build a strong in-house team to do the necessary upgrades and maintenance the Phoenix pay system requires. It would also help tackle the “end to end” issues, including the integration of HR systems. It would build on what a small team of our CS members have been doing since last November to help find long-term solutions to the problems plaguing the system. Last year we issued a call to CS members, jointly with Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), and these brilliant members are now working in the office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at PSPC, getting results right out of the gate.
We know that the government’s decision to outsource this project wholesale to IBM was a mistake. I got the sense that the ministers are finally coming to the same conclusion and that's why they're starting to involve government IT professionals to find the necessary solutions. To that end, I expressed deep concerns about a Request for Information (RFI) for the ongoing maintenance of the Phoenix pay system, cautioning the government against outsourcing even further.
The Ministers were open-minded, listened and asked questions. They committed to action. Follow-up meetings have already been scheduled by the PMO at the staff level.
Though progress is painfully slow, we are beginning to see some results from our work with the Treasury Board. Most recently, after much urging by unions, cases involving missing pay for maternity and parental leaves are being resolved. We are also seeing more proactive measures being taken by departments to ensure employees get timely access to priority pay. We are still urging all levels of government to improve their communications to ensure that employees know what resources are available to them. Mandatory team meetings with standard information should be required.
In the event that your pay issue is not resolved, we continue to encourage you to contact your local Employment Relations Officer (ERO) in the regional office nearest to you to help resolve the issue, and to access emergency or priority pay.
In closing, I want to urge each and every member to wear our "Fix Phoenix" buttons. It's a small gesture, but helps to keep the focus on fixing the plagued pay system. It's thanks to your hard work and solidarity that we have managed to elevate our Phoenix pay issues to the list of cabinet priorities. We must keep up the pressure until we see a resolution to this crisis!