That, in the opinion of the House, the government committed a gross error in judgement when it operationalized the previous Conservative government’s Phoenix pay system over the clear objections of both the affected unions and departmental staff, and that the House call on the government to: (a) pay all employees correctly and on time, every time, for the work they do; (b) exempt those who have been overpaid by Phoenix from having to pay back the ‘gross’ amount, despite actually receiving a substantially lower ‘net’ amount; (c) compensate those in the public service who have experienced damages from Phoenix, both financial and otherwise; and (d) publicly apologize to all of those who have endured hardship as a result of the government's error.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be sharing my speaking time with my colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby, to talk about a problem that has been plaguing hundreds of thousands of public service employees for months now. This is a colossal administrative scandal and an unprecedented financial and social drain.
The government committed an error in judgment when it green-lighted the costly second phase of the Phoenix pay system despite clear objections from the unions and affected departmental staff. The NDP is moving this motion to secure the future and heal the past.
First, we call on the government to:
(a) pay all employees correctly and on time, every time, for the work they do;
It is not normal for employees who work all week, some of them for more than 40 hours, and for contract workers to not be paid properly and in full for the hours they worked.
I worked at a convenience store when I was a student. I have fond memories of those days. Whether the store was busy or not so busy, I always got paid for the number of hours I worked.
It is unacceptable that we have to move a motion in the House to ask that federal public servants be properly compensated.
To come back to our motion, secondly, we are calling on the government to:
(b) exempt those who have been overpaid by Phoenix from having to pay back the ‘gross’ amount, despite actually receiving a substantially lower ‘net’ amount;
Unfortunately, the long and the short of it is that many people, including regular employees, contract workers, and even retirees keep getting payments they should not be, or overpayments. Some have received upwards of $50,000. That boggles the mind.
For example, a worker receiving a gross monthly overpayment of $1,000 will end up with $600 in their bank account after all the deductions have come off. We do not want that employee to be required to pay back $1,000 because that is not what ended up in the account. We want those who have been overpaid to have all the time and latitude they need to pay back only the net amount.
Third, we are calling on the government to:
(c) compensate those in the public service who have experienced damages from Phoenix, both financial and otherwise;
It is unfortunate, because many people have been and continue to be impacted because of the problems with the Phoenix pay system. We, as members of Parliament, are all being paid. We all had careers in the past and we will still have one when we are no longer MPs. When we receive our pay, it has to cover certain expenses. We have to pay for expenses related to our cars or our homes, and we have to buy food for our children.
When people do not receive the pay they were expecting for the hours worked, and they have to take an advance from their credit card, skip mortgage payments, and get into debt, they are seriously impacted both psychologically and financially.
We can name a number of people who now have a bad credit score. They have lost their sense of pride.
Blaming the former Conservative government no longer works. The Auditor General's report is clear: the current government failed to do what was required to fix the Phoenix pay system. I am not the one saying it. Public Services and Procurement Canada as well as Treasury Board did not recognize early enough the scope and severity of the problem with Phoenix.
That is why we are asking the government to accept responsibility for its poor management of the situation and to publicly apologize to all of those people who have endured hardship as a result of this situation. Unfortunately, there are many of them. Today, more than 193,000 public servants are affected by the government's failure to resolve the Phoenix pay system problems.
In my riding of Jonquière, no less than two-thirds of public servants have been impacted by the Phoenix fiasco. I could spend all week sharing the stories that I have unfortunately heard, or have had the misfortune of hearing, in my office. I was able to spend time with these people in order to understand their situations, and today I am proud to be their voice and I hope to bring about change.
One example is a young contractor who came to see me and who is owed more than $8,000. This job was perfect for him, since he could continue his studies and work at the same time, but the debt started piling up when he did not receive his pay. He has been owed $8,000 for two years, to the day. Although this young man should have had access to EI, since he is a contractor, the Phoenix pay system messed up his work hours and EI asked him to pay back the money. This whole situation is like quicksand, and, at the end of the day, workers are the ones paying the price. This is just one of so many examples.
I also heard from civilian employees on the military base who do not want to join the summer team because they cannot get paid on time. They have to talk to their employers to ask questions, and it never ends. These people go without income all summer.
I also had the opportunity to meet a woman while I was at the hair salon. She has been a victim of the Phoenix pay system for the past two years. She lives alone, her husband is deceased, so she is alone to pay the bills. She has no idea when she will get her money and be able to pay them.
The government is unable to tell these contract workers when they will be paid for their hours of work. When people have to accumulate credit card debt and are unable to pay their mortgage, it has a major impact on their family, the people around them and their financial situation.
The government promised public servants a good pay system that would allow them to manage their own requests through the wonders of technology. Now, it is threatening those workers to try to force them to pay back the costs associated with problems for which they are not responsible by a certain date. Workers are once again getting the short end of the stick.
For months, public servants have not been receiving their proper salaries, retirement pensions, and overtime payments because of Phoenix. Thousands of government employees are living with the financial stress of not being paid properly. Some workers are even turning down promotions because they know that they will not receive the pay increase associated with their additional duties. The worst part is that they do not even know when they will get paid. We are all worse off because we are depriving ourselves of high quality workers.
Thousands of government employees are living with the financial stress of not being paid properly, but that did not stop the senior executives responsible for overseeing Phoenix from receiving nearly $5 million in bonuses and performance pay over the past few years. That is ridiculous, when we know that many families are having trouble putting food on the table. The Liberal government continues to defend these executives who are receiving public funds when they did not fulfill their obligation to ensure that workers are paid for their hours of work each week.
In closing, it is high time that the Liberals give us a date by which they will fix this financial and human disaster.