Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that this issue is of some vexation to the minister. She finds it completely unacceptable, the way that this matter has rolled out.
Public Services and Procurement Canada is taking decisive action on a number of fronts to identify and solve the pay issues. In terms of staffing, four temporary pay units in Winnipeg, Gatineau, Montreal, and Shawinigan were set up and staffed to handle employee cases. The employees at these pay units as well as those in the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi are putting in long hours to see that their colleagues across the country receive the pay they have earned. The minister deeply appreciates their effort and personally visited Miramichi, most recently, just two weeks ago.
Actions have also been taken to make sure that public servants know how to use Phoenix. Employees across the Government of Canada have received additional training on how to submit their pay requests into Phoenix, and it is just a fact that planning for the implementation of Phoenix should have included more training in advance.
Online information tools, technical guides, and frequently asked questions are constantly updated, and the Phoenix system itself undergoes constant refinement based in part on feedback from human resources staff and other users. The goal is greater efficiency so that cases can be resolved more quickly. As a result of these efforts, and as employees become more accustomed to the system, we are seeing higher productivity.
It is true, as the hon. member suggested, that the department did not meet its October 31 deadline to eliminate the backlog of employee cases. The cases that remain are the those that are complex, requiring research to track down missing steps and manual input by compensation advisors. Many, if not most, of these cases existed before Phoenix was introduced, and dedicated effort is under way to resolve these cases as quickly as possible.
At the same time, the government has taken a number of measures to alleviate the pressures on employees who have experienced pay problems. For example, employees can request emergency salary advances through their own departments. A repayment process is being set up to ensure that those who have been overpaid as a result of pay issues can choose the repayment options that best suit their needs. For employees who have incurred out-of-pocket expenses as a result of missing pay, such as financial penalties for missed or late payments, Treasury Board has put in place a claims process and a form that can be found on the Canada.ca website.
Our goal is to reach a steady state where pay requests are processed consistently, with minimal errors, and in a reasonable time period. Many people have worked long hours to get us to this steady state. We are indebted to them, and we will get there.
Again, on behalf of the minister, these issues are unacceptable to the minister.