Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut May 08, 2017 - 3:59 pm

Phoenix pay problems doubly hard for Nunavut, northerners, senator says

“By not paying them properly, the government is pushing them into desperate situations"

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
Senator Dennis Patterson, appearing more and more like territorial MLA, says he is gathering stories from northerners having problems with the new federal pay system to include in a submission to a federal ministers' working group on the Phoenix pay fiasco. (FILE PHOTO)
Senator Dennis Patterson, appearing more and more like territorial MLA, says he is gathering stories from northerners having problems with the new federal pay system to include in a submission to a federal ministers' working group on the Phoenix pay fiasco. (FILE PHOTO)

While Ottawa’s new Phoenix pay system continues to deny thousands of federal public servants in southern Canada their rightful pay cheques, Nunavut’s senator says some northern civil servants, who are also being denied northern isolation pay, are suffering even more.

Sen. Dennis Patterson says ongoing glitches with the new Phoenix consolidated pay system—introduced in spring 2016—threaten northerners’ homes and families and he’s compiling stories to prove it.

“The very high cost of living in the North does not give people much leeway and many Nunavummiut are telling me that they were already living pay cheque to pay cheque,” said Patterson, in a news release sent out May 4.

“By not paying them properly, the government is pushing them into desperate situations. Some have had to lean on their family for support during these difficult times, but others lack that safety net.”

Quoting stories he’d received from constituents, Patterson mentioned in the release that mothers on maternity leave have received delayed pay, employees have depleted savings and face eviction, and one young Inuk had to sell his snowmobile before spring hunting season to pay the bills and support his family.

As part of its ongoing efforts to remedy the Phoenix fiasco—which has overpaid, underpaid or denied pay entirely to thousands of federal public servants—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced April 27 the creation of a new working group of ministers to address the problem.

Chaired by Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, the group includes five other ministers:

• Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board;

• Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance;

• Jim Carr, acting Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the department in charge of the new pay system, which administers pay for more than 290,000 employees across 98 federal organizations;

• Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change; and,

• Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary for PSP.

A news release on the new working group said little about what the group will do except to, “leverage the experience of its members, and to take a whole-of-government approach to address the issues.”

It also includes a brief quote from Trudeau that says, in part, “It is unacceptable for people to be working and not get paid.”

Patterson said he plans to compile stories from northerners to send in a letter to the working group.

He encourages anyone who is experiencing problems with the Phoenix pay system to send an email to Dennis.Patterson@sen.parl.gc.ca or to call 613-992-0480.

The federal government has set up a web page to help public servants navigate through their pay issues including a link to get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, where receipts are available.

According to recent media reports, the four senior managers in charge of rolling out the Phoenix system for Public Services and Procurement have left the department but according PSP’s deputy minister Marie Lemay, no one has actually lost a job over the debacle.

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