The national president of the union that represents thousands of federal taxation department employees says the ongoing problems that have plagued the federal Phoenix payroll system show the system is irreparably broken and should be scrapped.
Marc Brière was in Kelowna Wednesday to join about 20 federal employees for a lunch-time rally outside the federal building on Queensway.
Brière said with an estimated 600,000 payroll issues still needing to be dealt with, he is not confident Phoenix can be salvaged and rise from the ashes.
“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel at this point,” said Brière, adding if Ottawa cannot make the system work properly “ditch the system.”
The computerized Phoenix payroll system, implemented by the former Conservative government and kept by the current Liberal government, has created a litany of problems for federal workers’ pay.
On Wednesday, the protesters carried small signs saying “Burnt by Phoenix.”
Brière said many federal employees are scared to take vacations or accept promotions because they are afraid of more problems with their pay through Phoenix.
“If a private company had these problems, the federal government would sue them,” said the union leader, who is a Canada Revenue Agency employee and said he has seen firsthand some of the problems created by the faulty payroll system.
One, he said, is T4 slips—required by Canadians to file their taxes—not being the same as the information Phoenix provides. He said that may cause thousands of federal workers to have to do their taxes this year with incorrect information and then have to go back later and refile changes.
Kim Koch, a federal worker from Prince George who was at Wednesday’s rally in Kelowna, said if someone had told her four years ago the federal payroll system would be experiencing the type, and volume, of problems it has had for the last two years, she would have thought that was crazy talk.
“In B.C. in December alone, we had a problem with the pay system and (the provincial Medical Services Program) premiums not coinciding,” said Koch. “No date has been given for when that will be fixed.”
She said while not every federal employee has payroll problems that need to be directly addressed, all federal workers are affected because none are sure that they will be paid properly, or at all, every two weeks.
Phoenix has been in place for two years and the estimated cost of getting rid of it is about $5 billion.
Queensland, Australia had a similar payroll system for its state employees and it had similar problems. Queensland was forced to dump that program at a cost of $1.9 billion.
The federal government has repeatedly apologized for the problems Phoenix is creating and says it is working to fix the system as quickly as possible, but many feel that could take years.
Brière said more compensation advisers are needed to help federal employees deal with the problems the payroll system is creating, as it is causing real hardship for many federal workers.
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