'Our family has been devastated:' Phoenix payroll horror stories told at Nanaimo rally

By Ian Holmes
February 28, 2018 - 5:45pm Updated: February 28, 2018 - 6:20pm

Johanna Jenkins (holding sign) and Michelle Mitchell join United Health and Envionmental Workers Union rep Richard May at Nanaimo rally Tuesday afternoon. Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Damage caused to federal government employees by the catastrophic Phoenix payroll system was on full display at a Nanaimo rally.

About 50 employees representing several unions gathered during a rainy noon-hour rally on Front St. on the second anniversary of the disastrous payroll system's roll out. Since its launch in February 2016, tens of thousands of federal employees and hundreds in Nanaimo have been underpaid, overpaid, not paid at all, or had their benefits impacted.

One of those local workers hit hard is Johanna Jenkins, who works for the DFO at the Service Canada office on Front. St. Jenkins said she's been plagued by paycheque problems for most of the past two years.

“Our family life has been devastated by it,” Jenkins told NanaimoNewsNOW fighting back tears. “My husband and I fight all the time about money, about the lack thereof, about why I stay working for government.”

Jenkins said when the new payroll system launched she was overpaid, then when that problem was fixed six months later her bi-weekly cheques started coming up short.

“I sort of got told early on that being underpaid wasn't that important because I wasn't getting zero pay. That felt disrespectful.”

Jenkins said she doesn't know how much money will show up in her account on any given pay day. She said she has had to pull her daughter out of gymnastics, canceled birthday parties and had to rely on her elderly parents to fly her family to Ottawa to visit.

Managers within the DFO have tried to help, Jenkins said, but said there is little that can be done since the payroll system involves a third party.

“I still don't have a correct T4 for 2016 and I can't get one. At one point I was told 'Sorry, we're no longer working on correcting 2016 T4's.' So what do I do with that?”

Michelle Mitchell, DFO aquatic lab technician at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, said she's dealt with compensation issues for the past two years and is owed $20,000.

She said a lack of answers has caused a lot of frustration and stress.

“That's been the most frustrating part for me is not being able to talk to anybody,” Mitchell said. “My supervisors and everybody has sympathy toward my situation but nobody can help me.”

Mitchell said it's been a “stressful and drawn out two years,” which has seen her rely on her credit card to make ends meet.

Mitchell noted she also doesn't have access to most of her benefits.

The Federal Liberals announced during Tuesday's budget speech they intend to replace the troubled Phoenix payroll system.

In the interim, the Feds vow to hire more staff to focus on pay issues and better assist employees with pay problems for the system which belongs to IBM Canada.

— With files from the Canadian Press


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