A dozen protesters gathered outside the provincial constituency office in Prince Rupert to rally against the Phoenix payroll system.
On Oct. 18, the second anniversary of Justin Trudeau becoming Prime Minister of Canada, protests across B.C. called on the government to fix the ongoing issues with the federal payroll.
Since the Phoenix payroll system was installed in February 2016, it has been plagued with issues. Thousands of Canadian public service workers have been paid too much or too little, if at all.
Jill MacNeill, the Northwest coordinator for Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), said that 72 of the 80 people in their organization have had payment issues.
“It’s ridiculous,” MacNeill said at the rally.
Coral Keehn, a PSAC member and single mother of two, said her paychecks have been incorrect since March 2016.
“I haven’t had a correct paycheck in 564 days and counting. Some days it’s double, some days it’s a random number, some days it’s zero. And I never know what it’s going to be from week to week. I cannot budget, I cannot balance my books, I submitted a fraudulent tax return that I refused to sign but got processed anyway. It’s almost impossible,” Keehn said at the rally.
Her daycare, she said, has been understanding when she can’t make her monthly payment of $1,600 on time.
“If I didn’t have them, I don’t know what I’d do,” Keehn said. “I have no family in town, and I’m on my own.
“I’ve never felt like I had so little control over something. It’s really important as a single mom to keep track of your finances and be able to make sure that you are able to raise your children and they’re not going without.”
The process to have your claim reviewed, Keehn said, is complicated. There are four steps to file a pay action request: a worker has to ask a business manager to fill out the form, who then sends it to a trusted source in Vancouver who submits the request on the worker’s behalf.
The Phoenix payroll system is getting more calls than their facilities are able to handle.
“I’m really happy to all the people who turned out to support us, to find out exactly what Nathan Cullen as our elected Member of Parliament is doing to fix this problem. I’m not convinced that Phoenix will ever be fixed,” Keehn said, “but I’m hoping that one day my pay will be.”
Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen responded to the protest via email.
“We have a government that has admitted to not having a plan or timeline to fix Phoenix. We are pressuring the government through committee and question period to find out the progress, if any, of the proposed fix. The government task force, which has no members of the opposition, has met rarely to find a solution. We are also waiting on the Auditor General report on Phoenix to come out sometime in the fall,” Cullen wrote.
“We have proposed a dedicated MP hotline to help Constituency Offices assist the affected employees but the government has refused help from opposition parties on all levels. This is the same old liberal party, blame everyone else, waste money, and refuse to cooperate with other parties. Today in Rupert was anything but sunny ways, both in weather and the feelings amongst the employees who are helpless and feel left behind by a government too prideful to cooperate with anyone but themselves.”