Federal government facing more than 2,000 grievances over Phoenix

Hundreds of thousands of Phoenix cases still outstanding

The federal government is facing at least 2,000 grievances directly related to the Phoenix payroll system, according to an investigation by Radio-Canada.

Since the government consolidated many separate payroll systems into the Phoenix pay system last spring, tens of thousands of public servants have been underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all.

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said it's the subject of just over 2,000 individual grievances over Phoenix issues, as well as eight policy grievances filed by unions on behalf of their members, but wouldn't disclose the total amount of compensation reimbursed to employees.

Secretariat spokesperson Martin Potvin told Radio-Canada the number is constantly changing as grievances are resolved and new grievances are reported. He said the department doesn't compile grievance data, and as a result, other cases might already have been dealt with.

At least 566 of these grievances were forwarded to the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board, an independent administrative tribunal.

Communications manager Dale Synnett-Caron said the board doesn't have data on how much the average hearing costs, but Isabelle Roy, general counsel for the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said administrative fees, lawyer costs, overtime pay and travel expenses can add up.

Costly temporary teams

Roy said the Public Service Labour Relations Act prevents union workers from filing a class action suit against the government when a dispute arises in connection with employment. Instead, unionized workers are entitled to file a grievance.

Radio-Canada also learned some federal departments have had to set up temporary teams to handle the administrative problems caused by Phoenix grievances.

Employment and Social Development Canada told Radio-Canada they've put together a team of two employees who work full time to handle grievances submitted in connection with Phoenix.

Spokesperson Amélie Maisonneuve said it costs about $150,000.

Heritage Canada said it re-hired six full-time employees and one part-time employee at a cost of $372,000.

In its most recent update, the federal government said there are about 284,000 pay transactions still waiting to be processed, about a three-month backlog.