City weighs in on Phoenix pay system

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne wants the City of Prince Albert to start putting pressure on the federal government to resolve the Phoenix pay system backlog.

On Monday, Dionne made a notice of motion asking for city council’s support to contact the federal government regarding the “negative economic impact” the pay system has on local residents and businesses.

Since the pay system was implemented in February 2016, federal workers have reported a number of serious errors in their paycheques. Those mistakes range from too much pay to not being paid at all.

The issue came to a head almost one year ago in Prince Albert, when members from the Union of Solicitor General Employees and Public Service Alliance of Canada launched a protest in front of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

With lingering issues still unsolved, Dionne said it’s time for the city to step in and offer their support to affected workers.

“We usually don’t interfere with other governments’ business, but this is affecting the economic benefits of our community,” he explained.

On Aug. 24, the CBC reported that 156,035 federal government employees have been waiting more than 30 days for a pay complaint to be resolved. That’s almost half of all public employees paid via the Phoenix pay system.

Dionne said the delay isn’t just hurting workers, it’s causing problems for the businesses they support too. He’s spoken to several business owners in the city who say they have a backlog of customers who want to purchase items like vehicles, but can’t because they haven’t been paid.

He’s concerned the issue isn’t being dealt with correctly, and wants someone to hold the government’s feet to the fire.

“If any private company did this, the labour boards, both federally and provincially, would be all over them, so why don’t we play by the same rules?”

As mayor, Dionne does not need council support to contact the federal government on behalf of the city. He simply wants to make sure council is on board in case the city receives any backlash.

The issue will come up for approval at the next regular council meeting in September.

The conservative government previously introduced the Phoenix pay system as a way to standardize and streamline payroll transactions for federal employees. The cost of the project has ballooned since then. In May 2017, the federal government announced a two-year $142-million hire plan to deal with the backlog.

Thierman Financial