Federal employees, upset at the ongoing pay problems with the government’s computerized Phoenix payroll system and the moving of the Canada Employment and Immigration office in Vegreville, Alberta to Edmonton, took their issues directly to Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr Friday.
While Fuhr was not at his downtown Kelowna office at the time, the 24 protesters from across B.C. and the Yukon, chanted and waved placards outside.
Vanessa Miller, regional vice-president of the of the Canadian Employment and Immigration Union, said despite assurances from the federal government that the long-running problems with Phoenix would be fixed, problems are still occurring.
She said as a result, some federal employees are either not getting their regular pay cheques or are having their pay delayed.
One worker, Stephen Klaver, came from White Rock for the protest. He said while his issues have finally been resolved, for a while he was not getting paid and that had a major impact on his health and his home life.
As a divorced parent, he said he could not have his kids stay with him because he could not afford to feed them and it was only because of understanding landlords that he did not loose his rented home.
He said he also developed health problems as a result of the stress.
Miller said the Liberals vowed to respect the civil service when they came to power two years ago but have not lived up to that promise.
“We are still seeing problems with Phoenix despite (the government) promising to fix it,” said Miller.
Virtually all the protesters said they have either had problems, or are still having problems, with the controversial pay system introduced by the former Conservative government.
In addition to Phoenix, the union is also upset the government is moving the office in Vegreville that deals with refugees to Edmonton.
The move will affect about 250 employees in a town of 5,000.
Eddy Bourque, the national president of the Canadian Employment and Immigration Union, who was on hand in Kelowna Friday, said the move goes against another Liberal vow, to respect rural Canada.
He said the majority of the employees affected by the move are women.
Vegreville is a rural community located about 103 kilometres east of Edmonton and Bourque said if the employees have to move, it could have a wider effect on the town, from its economy to its schools.
Bourque and his union members were in attendance at Wednesday night’s town hall-style meeting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. But he said the prime minister did not call on any of his group to ask a question.