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Federal employees on P.E.I. boycott Public Service Workers week

Heather Ford, spokesperson for PSAC P.E.I. chapter, signs a postcard that will be sent to MP Scott Brison asking for the Phoenix pay system to be fixed.
Heather Ford, spokesperson for PSAC P.E.I. chapter, signs a postcard that will be sent to MP Scott Brison asking for the Phoenix pay system to be fixed.

Ginger Cole doesn’t like saying she has received phone calls from crying federal employees.

Over the last few months, the calls have become frequent.

“The problem federal employees have been facing because of the Phoenix pay system aren’t anything new. But it’s gone on so long, this is what it has come to.”

Cole is the president of the local 90006 Union of Taxation Employees.

She has encountered people who can’t afford to put food on the table, who have had their cars repossessed and who have been served eviction notices.

Phoenix has been in place for two years and needs to be dealt with, she said.

“We have a high number of term employees at the P.E.I. Tax Centre. A lot of them are not receiving their record of employment in time when their term is over, which means they can’t apply for unemployment. People are getting to the point where they’ve borrowed all they can borrow.”

National level change is needed, Cole added.

“Locally we are trying to do all we can to support the federal employees, but Phoenix is causing a problem across the country. We need action.”

Cole said scrapping the Phoenix program is not an option.

“They want to fix the problems.

“I just want people to be paid. I don’t care how it’s done. Just pay them and pay them right.”

On Tuesday, local members of the Public Service Alliance Canada and federal government employees had a barbecue at Green Shore in Summerside to raise awareness of the Phoenix system problems and to serve notice that they are boycotting National Public Service Week.

“National Public Service Week should be about celebrating the work of public service workers, but instead we’re here fighting to get paid,” said Jeannie Baldwin, the regional executive vice-president for PSAC.

Before Phoenix was rolled out by the Conservative government of the time, PSAC employees cried out in opposition, said Baldwin.

“They didn’t do the research and they didn’t listen to us. If they had, they would have known that the system didn’t work. It’s cost them millions of dollar to fix the problem, and there is no end in sight.”

There are employees who are afraid that any disruptions in their work schedules could damage their pay.

“People are using their vacation because they’re worried if they take another form that their pay will be stopped or will go wrong,” said Baldwin.

There are people who have checked their bank accounts and had $0 as their pay because of Phoenix, she added.

Heather Ford, spokesperson for the Island PSAC chapter, said even after two years, many employees are still facing uncertainty.

“Some are forced to rely on their lines of credit, credit cards and family loans because they are going without pay, under payment or over payment, which they have to pay back and may not be able to.”

She added, “We’re tired of sending emails to MPs. We just want people to get paid. The premise of going to work every day is simple. I work for you and you will pay me.”

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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