POLITICS
12/22/2017 15:01 EST | Updated 12/22/2017 15:11 EST

Phoenix Pay System: Federal Officials Warned More Civil Servants Could See 'Low Pay Or No Pay' Over Christmas

There could be a surge in emergency pay requests.

Justin Tang/CP
Public servants protest over problems with the Phoenix pay system outside the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council in Ottawa on Oct. 12, 2017.

OTTAWA — Federal government managers were warned this week of a possible surge in emergency pay requests from civil servants over the holidays after new issues were discovered with the troubled Phoenix pay system.

Managers were to receive lists of "low pay or no pay employees" by Friday, and were being encouraged to reach out to those who might need help.

"We would encourage you to reach out to employees on this list to determine if an emergency salary advance (ESA) or priority payment may be required on December 27th, and if any special measures to provide the payment may be needed given the holiday season and related absences and travel," said a memo from Les Linklater, an associate deputy minister at Public Works and Government Services Canada, made public Friday.

The memo was issued Wednesday after problems were discovered in processing of pay requests for the final payday of the year, Dec. 27.

Earlier:

Officials said some transactions entered into the pay system in early November weren't processed, creating a new backlog of problem files.

"The Phoenix pay system encountered technical and administrative issues with a module that affected performance of the system, in particular with a program in Phoenix that processes employee-submitted transactions," Public Services and Procurement Canada said in a statement.

"Some transactions entered in Phoenix as of November 1, such as overtime and timesheets, were not processed, which created an accumulation of transactions. This led to processing challenges for the December 27 pay run."

Public Services said the problem, which it blamed on both technical and human errors, had been resolved by Dec. 17, but some civil servants reported receiving pay stubs after that date that were short of what they were owed.

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks during a news conference upon the release of his report in Ottawa on May 3, 2016.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents some 180,000 civil servants, said it sought and received assurances from the government that any employee facing year-end pay issues could request emergency funds.

PSAC and other unions said they were also continuing to offer emergency pay services to their members.

The auditor general last month reported more than 150,000 government workers — or about half the federal civil service — had been affected by the Phoenix fiasco that began nearly two years ago, either by being underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The government has warned it could cost upwards of $1 billion to stabilize the pay system and fix it.

Public Service Minister Carla Qualtrough predicted earlier this month that it could take until the end of 2018 or beyond to eliminate a backlog of problem pay files that had reached 335,000 as of Nov. 29.